Last night the Toronto Maple Leafs were defeated by the Buffalo Sabres 6-4 after giving up four goals in the second period to blow a two goal lead. They almost made it back, but alas, they gave the Sabres faithful something to be thankful for. Tonight however.....
Tonight’s big change is that Frederik Andersen is the starter, a huge change from Michael Hutchinson in net (sorry Mike). Also Jason Spezza was scratched as Alexander Kerfoot makes his return to the line up.
The first five minutes of this game are hockey. Pucks moving, players skating, but only one shot on net. Not much to report on. The Leafs didn’t learn their lesson about turnovers last night, and Ceci almost lets the Sabres score first, but Andersen is there.
The Leafs get the crowd roaring and close to opening the scoring, but Dmytro Timashov swings a second too early for a beautiful pass.
Early on in the game the Buffalo Sabres defenders are on top of their game, keeping the Leafs from getting breakaways and really good chances. The Leafs themselves aren’t helping themselves much either, seemingly slower than they have been and not you know, doing stuff.
The Leafs defense are, well, up to their old tricks as we see below:
This period wasn’t filled with a lot of pizzazz and lacked a wow factor, but hockey was played. There were a few highlights, notable with Auston Matthews involved:
As the period draws to a close Nic Petan gets called for tripping Jack Eichel, so the Sabres will get a power play for the rest of the period, and hopefully a bit of the second as well.
The Leafs PK keeps the slot filled in, and the Sabres to the perimeter so the only shot they get off for the first minute of the power play is wide. They send the puck down the ice and kill off about ten seconds as both teams change lines, and the first period ends with seven seconds remaining in the penalty.
After one, it’s a scoreless game.
The penalty expires without a goal from Buffalo, which is good, but after a quarter of the second period passes, there’s no goal from the Leafs as well, which is bad. However, Marcus Johansson gets called for slashing Cody Ceci, so the Leafs get a power play opportunity of their own.
The Leafs power play is more active than the Sabres, with a lot more work happening in front of Carter Hutton. That hard work pays off after William Nylander scores his tenth goal of the season:
That assist from John Tavares is the 400th of his career.
Play stays in the offensive zone for the Leafs, and they get the crowd gasping as the shots are close to doubling the score, midway through the game the shots (thanks to the home shot counter) are a wild 22-12 in Toronto’s favour. They all haven’t been great, or close to actually being goals, but that’s a fun number to look at.
Frederik Andersen is working hard too, just also hardly working, he’s making the saves when needed but those times have been few and far between. This one, however, got the Scotiabank Arena on it’s feet and chanting his name:
Connor Sheary argues that this goal went in, he did celebrate, but reviews are close to either way of deciding, but the decision is the call on the ice stands and there’s no goal.
The Sabres are a bit more energized after that call, with Connor Sheary coming right in on the net again, but he doesn’t score this time either. The Leafs are called for slashing, so it’s another useless power play for the Sabres, who surprisingly, don’t score.
John Tavares and Auston Matthews almost combine for a goal, then Frederik Gauthier(!) gets his second close call of the game. Nylander’s goal still stands as the only one so far.
As the period comes to a close, Frederik Andersen once again stands on his head to keep the shutout going, making some big saves in a mad scramble in front of the net.
After two, it’s 1-0 Leafs.
The third period begins with Carter Hutton making a huge save Ilya Mikheyev, and then Zach Hyman getting into a shoving match in front of the net.
Jack Eichel gets slashed without a call and heads back to the bench looking sad and grimacing. To quote Owen Nolan, boo hoo.
The Maple Leafs keep the pressure up on the Sabres, with Kasperi Kapanen running to the net for a chance, and Travis Dermott throwing the body around:
The Sabres pick up their play, and catch the Leafs defense as they all get out of order, and Rasmus Ristolianen skates around a few Leafs to tie the game at one each.
Both teams use this goal as a reason to go for the game winner, with both Andersen and Hutton making saves that gets the crowd on their feet, with a few odd decisions by forwards thrown in there for good measure, like Matthews’ play here:
And no one covering the net here:
The Sabres get control of the play and skate around the Leafs end for a bit until Casey Mittelstadt makes the shot that Andersen saves to end the play.
This is a weird game, in that the play hasn’t been great, some really dumb mistakes have been made, but it’s still - to me anyway - a very entertaining game. I’m silly I know, but the saves were big and players were dumb which leads to craziness.This should have been an easy win; on paper the Sabres are not a good team and should feel bad for how they’ve played lately, but that’s Leafs Hockey™!
The third period ends after the Leafs flail their sticks at the puck some more, and the Sabres make vain attempts at scoring, and then Auston Matthews and Jake Muzzin team up and almost score and gets the crowd on their feet, then Matthews comes back to do it again, but nothing goes in and we get ourselves some overtime!
More of the same, but the crowd is really into it. The Sabres get a chance but the Leafs keep things going for themselves with a lot of circling the zone, waiting for their chance to strike when John Tavares gets a wrist shot past Carter Hutton for the win.
The Maple Leafs get their first win on game two of a back to back, but of course Frederik Andersen is the winning goalie.
The Leafs have time off until Tuesday night when they play the Flyers on the road in, wait for it, game one of a BACK TO BACK. Let this end soon.