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Nic Petan gets his first goal as the Maple Leafs easily knock off the Sabres

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The Leafs gave the Sabres the lead and then came back and won it, in what is becoming their standard win lately.

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at Toronto Maple Leafs John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Nic Petan makes his debut in this game, and Justin Holl gives way for Igor Ozhiganov, but there’s no Nazem Kadri yet.

The Sabres, meanwhile, are going with Linus Ullmark, who played last night. Sure he helped them win it in overtime, along with a bizarre offside review, but there’s no good reason to ride a goalie on back-to-backs, and I’m glad the days of the Leafs doing that are long gone.

First Period

The Leafs start out strong against the tired-looking Sabres. Mitch Marner gets the first shot.

They roll through the lines, and there’s a lot of short, quick passes in the defensive zone that leads to fast exits, but the Leafs are giving the puck back in the neutral zone a lot. This is not their usual mix of success and failure.

This is a good game for Nic Petan to get things figured out, and he’s in the same boat as Justin Holl and Ozhiganov, neither of whom have played much and not recently. So far, it’s clear he has Leafs-necessary speed.

JT JT JT JT JT JT Damn, that’s nice to see him score after that last game.

Marincin shoots it at the net (he has a silly-high success rate at getting point shots through), and the resulting scramble gives the tip-in artist a canvas to draw on.

1-0 Leafs.

Marincin nearly gets a goal on a good shot.

The fourth line loses the puck in the offensive zone, and they get pinned by a gentle spin cycle from the Sabres. No one seems to see Jason Pominville behind the net, so he just casually goes and stands in the tip-in spot, and the Sabres do a reverse of the Leafs goal.

Tie game.

Speaking of being hoist on your own petard. The Sabres execute a nice flip pass up the neutral zone and Conor Sheary gets the wildly bouncing puck and beats Frederik Andersen. Andersen is not at his best in that kind of situation in general, or the specific in this case.

2-1 Sabres.

William Nylander line moves easily up ice and gets extended zone time, but Nylander’s wingers only forecheck. Watching Nylander centre Connor Brown and Patrick Marleau is like listening to the Swedish House remix of that Nazem Kadri hit single: All I Need is One Good Winger.

Leafs draw a penalty and get a power play chance to even it up.

The power play is intensely good with three chances, one saved by a defender, one by the goalie by accident, and one by a post.

The second unit is less exciting, and shortly after Marner takes a slashing penalty.

Trevor Moore is on the PK. The Leafs are auditioning the Par Lindholm replacement.

The Sabres are very bad on this power play and get absolutely nothing going.

Brown shows how he’s not good enough to play with Marner when he is surprised by a pass.

Sam Reinhart gets a rush, and he nearly scores.

Whoo hooo! What was that I said about running goalies back to back? Just watch this one:

Tie game!

And yeah, Marleau was great on that play.

Thoughts

  • Ullmark looks rough
  • Nylander looks like a man who can get through the neutral zone
  • If Marincin is surprising you with his offence, he’s always had that in the AHL, and he seems to have developed it on the Marlies enough to add something on the Leafs
  • Matthews is destroying the Evan Rodrigues line, Sheary goal notwithstanding
  • The fourth line is very, very bad and barely played
  • The Tavares line is (again) excellent while matching up to the other team’s top line

Second Period

The Leafs come out strong just like in the first.

Ah, I stand partially corrected. Carter Hutton might not be able to start at this time, hence Ullmark’s usage.

Wow, Ullmark with no clue where the puck was, but JT couldn’t get that one in behind him.

Ozhiganov with a giveaway in front of the Leafs net that was him essentially tagging Holl to get in the next game. And yes, Calle Rosen is still hurt.

Wait, did that ... no, that did not go in. Ullmark just barely made a save on Andreas Johnsson.

Holy cow, Jeff Skinner gets a breakaway when Marner loses the puck, and Captain Morgan Rielly outskates him. That’s not something you see every day, so Skinner had to be half-gassed. Andersen refuses entry to the puck and all is well.

Oh, nice. Nic Petan gets the puck away from Rasmus Dahlin after a long time with the Leafs fourth line hemmed in. Nice to see his do something. The fourth line are playing with the Rielly-Hainsey pairing, and I miss the Travis Dermott third pair that got all the fourth line time and helped make it work.

There’s a fight in the corner....and it’s Kasperi Kapanen and Evan Rodrigues. Ohhh, now that I see the replay, Kappy took no crap there when Rodrigues thought he should.

Moore on the Matthews line, in for Kappy, and he draws a penalty by doing that go to the net thing he does down in the minors.

This isn’t the best power play ever. The Leafs look they’re driving the bus in this game, though.

Oh! That’s doing something. Nic Petan with his first goal on a perfect pass from Moore. The first period seems like a long time ago now.

3-2 Leafs.

I disagree with Flintor. I think the other guy might be the guy who told Kyle to get Petan. Okay, some intermission research shows that’s Dir. of Player Evaluation Jim Paliafito, who is the guy who goes over to Europe to scout the World Championships. I think it definitely was him that picked Petan.

Nylander rolls up and bangs one off the post, that was nearly another goal.

The Leafs buzz Ullmark for the last few minutes of the period, and Zaitsev shoots a nice pass over to the slot and Zach Hyman puts it home.

4-2 Leafs.

No, wait, it’s Zaitsev’s goal, as the tip was done by Brandon Montour.

The Sabres go a few seconds without letting in another goal, and the second period is done.

Thoughts

  • Leafs are getting it done, but this is classic Sabres — they don’t last the whole game
  • I also don’t care about that because we all needed this game
  • Anyone who watched Kappy on the Marlies is not surprised by the short, sharp, decisive fight. Don’t rile up Kappy, I tell ya.

Third period

The Tavares line open the period by playing like they’ve just met. And, man, do the Sabres ever transition fast. There is a lot of good things about this Sabres team, but they just aren’t a whole package.

Tavares takes a penalty for a fairly cheesy hooking call. I think I fell asleep during Buffalo’s power play.

Petan tries to send Rasmus Ristolainen ass over teakettle, as my mother used to say. That was a very Winnipeg sort of move.

(Omar’s off tonight, so thanks to Flintor for just existing and being fun with these gifs. If you are on Twitter, you must follow him.)

The Leafs try to play some dull hockey to run out the lead, and they’re doing a good job of being dull most of the time. Remember when all they could do was be terrifyingly good or just terrifying?

And having said that, Ron Hainsey makes a great save when a scrum around the net goes wrong and Andersen lets a dribbler through. My theory on the scrambles in front of both nets is pucks frozen too hard and ice that’s actually good for a change.

Marleau with a gift of a chance on a broken play when Montour goes down. Marleau cannot score on three tries on Ullmark. That was the most exciting thing in the last five or six minutes.

Ullmark is out of the net, and the Sabres cannot control the puck offensively, and Marner puts it in the empty net to make this yet another game where the Leafs score at least five goals.

5-2 Leafs is the final score.

Who Played Where?

I had too little time to track this, so after the fact:

  • The PK D were Zaitsev, Hainsey, Muzzin and Marincin (in order by TOI)
  • The PK F were Kapanen, Hyman, Brown, Moore (46 seconds), Marner and Gauthier (nine seconds)
  • The PP time has 3:03 for Rielly and 1:15 for Muzzin, so that’s much more first unit that it used to be
  • The defence at 5on5 was Rielly - 21:28, Hainsey - 16:58, Zaitsev - 16:46, Muzzin - 16:31, Ozhiganov - 13:58, Marincin - 12:04, so that’s a 1D and three guys on the second pair.
  • The fourth line played less than eight minutes, but considering they had less than two in the first period, they got more trust as the game went on
  • Matthews played one minute less than Tavares at five-on-five, so light the torches and grab the pitchforks

Thoughts

  • More of an untested theory than a thought, but Zaitsev looks like Jake Muzzin makes sense to him when Jake Gardiner never has
  • Further to that, Zaitsev’s regular partners in Russia, where he is excellent, have always been very traditional and dull guys
  • Kappy looked like he shouldn’t have been in the Islanders game, but he looked great tonight