Defensive errors prove costly in Toronto Maple Leafs loss vs. Buffalo Sabres
By Neil Becker
On Wednesday night, with full capacity crowds now permitted at Scotiabank Arena, the Leafs couldn’t move past the Florida Panthers into second place, as they dropped a 5-1 decision to the Buffalo Sabres.
Playing at home in front of a big crowd Toronto, who were playing a struggling Sabres team, could have leapfrogged the Panthers and moved into second in the ultra-competitive Atlantic Division.
During this most recent installment of the battle of the QEW series, the Leafs went with backup goaltender Petr Mrazek, who ended up struggling on this night and was eventually jeered by the frustrated Toronto home fans.
Toronto, who came into action sporting a three-game winning streak, have after this loss to Buffalo recorded an alarming trend of yielding three or fewer goals only twice in their last 12 games. Meanwhile, due to the combination of defensive struggles and average to below-average goaltending, they have surrendered five or more goals five times during that 12- game span.
Buffalo, who trail the Washington Capitals by 32 points for that last playoff spot grabbed the early momentum as defenceman Jacob Bryson scored a power-play goal at the 2:26 mark to give the Sabres a 1-0 lead. The Leafs would come back to tie things up as defenceman Rasmus Sandin, who was coming off a two-point performance in a win against the Washington Capitals, struck again with less than nine minutes left in the first with his for his fourth goal of the year. That, unfortunately, turned out to be the highlight for Sandin who on the evening finished with a – 2 plus/minus rating.
Buffalo took the lead for good when at 12:19 into the second, forward Victor Olofsson cashed in on a rebound. Also getting on the board in the second was Sabres red-hot forward Tage Thompson who connected for his seventh goal in six games. Stationed in the slot. this skilled forward shot one over Mrazek’s glove for a 3-1 lead after two.
The Sabres pressed in the third and were rewarded with two more goals starting with speedy forward Jeff Skinner who at 6:39 of the third, scored his 21st. goal to put Buffalo firmly in control.
Sabres veteran forward Kyle Okposo got into the act as he rounded out the offense by scoring his 14th goal at 11:48, which gave Buffalo what was a 5-1 win.
These two teams won’t have to wait long to renew acquaintances as they are scheduled to officially face-off on March 13, 2022, at the much anticipated To Horton’s NHL Heritage Classic which will consist of the Leafs vs. the Sabres.
Meanwhile, the Leafs next game is scheduled for Saturday night at Scotiabank Arena with a 7:30 p.m. opening faceoff against the Vancouver Canucks.
2:26 PPG- Jacob Bryson (1) 1 – 0
Dylan Cozens (16), Casey Mittelstadt (3)
11:48 Rasmus Sandin (4) 1 – 1
Michael Bunting (19), Mitch Marner (19)
12:19 Victor Olofsson (8) 2 – 1
Rasmus Asplund (14), Rasmus Dahlin (27)
18:31 Tage Thompson (23) 3 – 1
Jeff Skinner (18), Alex Tuch (16)
6:39 Jeff Skinner (21) 4 – 1
11:48 Kyle Okposo (14) 5 – 1
Dylan Cozens (17), Mark Pysyk (9)