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Recap: Sabres 4, Leafs 1

Things got ugly early and stayed that way.

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Box ScoreWar On Ice

Despite how much the Leafs have lost this season, it hasn't been difficult to come up with new storylines for each game. For this Leafs' game against the Sabres, it was Andrew Campbell, GTA kid, Leafs' fan growing up, and deserving Toronto Marlie, got the call-up to get his Leafs' debut. Also making his NHL debut was Swede Tobias Lindberg, who had 12 points in 19 games with the Marlies so far this season.

Things began relatively quietly, until Colin Greening farted with his brain and swept a blind backhand pass into the slot at the Leafs' end, and forced Garret Sparks to make a couple of good saves just two minutes into the contest.

Buffalo opened the scoring at 7:09 of the period as Nazem Kadri made a lacklustre play in the neutral zone while defending the rush, which sent Johan Larsson in 1-on-1 against Morgan Rielly. Larsson ripped a great shot past Rielly, who gave Larsson too much room, and Sparks was beat cleanly.

Roughly 30 seconds later, it was the rookie Campbell who took a slashing penalty against Marcus Foligno, but fortunately, the Leafs' penalty kill managed to avoid being scored on for two minutes.

The Sabres generally controlled more of the play in the first period, with very few Leafs showing much interest in breaking into the offensive zone with the puck. Jake Gardiner had a couple good rushes, and Kasperi Kapanen had a decent look on net, but overall, the Leafs looked sleepy.

TSN colour commentator Ray Ferraro correctly noted that William Nylander was struggling with his play away from the puck, and I guess I would be more concerned if the Leafs didn't have Mike Babcock coaching the team. Nylander will improve.

Frank Corrado, who was paired with Gardiner tonight, took the Leafs' second penalty of the night with just under two minutes remaining in the opening frame as he interfered with Hudson Fasching in front of the Leafs' net. This time, Ryan O'Reilly found his brother Cal O'Reilly open in the slot, and Cal ripped a shot by Sparks to make it 2-0 Sabres.

The shot total was an ugly 16-5 in favour of Buffalo, as the Leafs laid a turd of a period. The 5v5 CF numbers were close - 14-13 Buffalo - but the penalties the Leafs took shouldn't be discounted in the appraisal of the period.

The Leafs undoubtedly got a stern lecture from Babcock in between periods but the Leafs came out about as flat as they finished the first. Nylander got absolutely danced while trying to defend against Jack Eichel, who looked great against the Leafs all night.

Things went from bad to worse, as the puck was dumped lightly into the Leafs' zone, and the puck dribbled in slowly. TJ Brennan was too slow to pick up the loose puck and Cal O'Reilly picked up his second of the game, slapping home a bad-angle shot past Sparks to extend the Sabres' lead to 3.

By the halfway mark of the game, the Sabres had generated another power play, hit the post, and built a 25-7 lead in shots. Michael Grabner had his usual shorthanded breakaway, but naturally, he didn't score.

Whenever Grabner is on a breakaway, I think of the scene early in the original Mighty Ducks movie where Gordon Bombay is excited because his team (specifically, Charlie Conway) finally has a breakaway against the dreaded Hawks. When Bombay stands up and hopefully yells "All right!" Carp turns back to Bombay and says: "It's Spazway. He'll screw up." Conway totally whiffs on the shot and falls down. Michael Grabner is "Spazway".

The Leafs eventually managed to draw a penalty and managed to get a couple looks on net, but didn't score.

Gardiner, who was probably the best Leaf on the ice tonight, misplayed the puck at the offensive zone line and gifted a breakaway to Josh Gorges. Fortunately, it was Josh Gorges on a breakaway and Sparks stopped it.

Finally, Brooks Laich broke the goose egg, as Tobias Lindberg protected the puck well along the wall, and sent a great pass out front of the Buffalo net that Laich cashed in on while Chad Johnson was looking the other direction. It was Lindberg's first NHL point in his first NHL game.

The Sabres appeared to have scored again with 2:43 left in the second period, as the puck eventually wound up in the back of the net behind Sparks, but after reviewing the play, the referees decided that their on-ice call would stand - no goal, due to incidental contact with the goalie. Then, Dan Bylsma challenged the play, saying that Fasching didn't make enough contact with Sparks to affect the play. After going upstairs a second time, the refs stood by their initial call, and the game remained 3-1 for Buffalo.

Kadri had a glorious chance off the rush with less than a minute to go and he danced a defender and the goalie before having the puck roll off his stick at the last second, leaving him unable to stuff home the great chance he created for himself.

At the end of two periods, the Leafs went to the dressing room being out-shot 33-16 by a Sabres team that was missing Carlo Colaiacovo, Cody Franson, Evander Kane, and Robin Lehner. The 5v5 Corsi battle even started to tilt more in the Sabres' favour, going up to 32-24.

The early goings of the third period saw Eichel get another breakaway chance as TJ Brennan got caught coming off the bench but Sparks shut the door.

Quite honestly, I lost interest in watching this one for most of the third but nothing happened, so whatever.

The team pulled Sparks early and then Kadri drew another penalty, but the Leafs were unable to score again 6-on-4. Lindberg appeared to have a good chance but was hooked on the play.

Larsson eventually scored on the empty net with a handful of seconds left and a shoving match erupted after Kadri put a late hit on him. Ho hum.

Notes on individual players:

- Nazem Kadri continues to develop his 'pest' game. I'm OK with it, so long as he stays out of the box.

- Jake Gardiner was probably the best Leaf in this one. He was one of the only ones to actually rush the puck into the offensive zone all game. He had a good chance or two on net, and despite that one miscue at his own blue line, was generally good all nice.

- It was a rough game for TJ Brennan. He was the victim of a bad change once, but still. His foot speed is an issue.

- I am tabling a motion to nickname Michael Grabner "Spazway".

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