Buffalo Sabres defeat Toronto Maple Leafs for third time this season
By Neil Becker
You can bet that the Toronto Maple Leafs are happy to see the last of the Buffalo Sabres.
For whatever reason, the Sabres have had the Leafs number this year by defeating them in three out of four games and outscoring them by a 19-10 count.
Looking to ride the momentum of their Saturday night 3-2 win at home against the Montreal Canadiens, the Leafs were back at Scotiabank Arena on Tuesday night wherein that fourth and final meeting against Buffalo, they dropped a 5-2 decision.
The Leafs had backup goalie Erik Kallgren in net who made 23 saves while Buffalo had Craig Anderson who was also stellar in a 23 save performance.
Buffalo took a 1-0 lead when on the power-play veteran forward Kyle Okposo scored at 7:25 of the first period on a perfect shot just under the crossbar.
A little over two minutes into the second period Toronto got a fortunate bounce after Leafs forward William Nylander’s shot on goal went wide. The puck hit the boards behind the Sabres net and bounced in front right to defenceman Timothy Liljegren who scored his fourth goal to make it a new game.
Actually, Liljegren shot the puck and it hit Anderson’s pad then rebounded into the net.
Buffalo’s leading scorer Tage Thompson would continue with his career season as he received a pass from Alex Tuch before scoring his 33rd goal and Buffalo’s second power-play goal of the game to give them a 2-1 lead after 40 minutes of regulation.
The eventual turning point came when starting at 4:09 of the third the Sabres scored two goals in less than two minutes starting with forward Jeff Skinner who from the slot scored his 31st goal on a shot blocker side. Following Skinner was defenceman Rasmus Dahlin who scored his 10th which gave them a 4-1 lead.
At the 8:55 mark, Toronto made things interesting when forward Alex Kerfoot, who was parked in the slot scored his 13th on a shot which Anderson got a piece of before the puck trickled in.
Toronto would pull the goalie but the strategy backfired as Sabres forward Rasmus Asplund scored with only 2:18 remaining into an open net to cement the win.
Morgan Rielly assisted on both goals for the Leafs and Matthews 16 game point streak, where he totaled 21 goals and 31 points, and came to an end.
Heading into the regular season’s final 9 games, the two questions are whether Auston Matthews can reach the 60- goal plateau and whether his linemate Mitch Marner can reach the 100- point plateau. Currently, Matthews has 58 goals and Marner has totaled 90 points.
More than likely Toronto will finish second in the Atlantic Division as they find themselves trailing division-leading Florida Panthers by 10 points while the Tampa Bay Lightning are four points behind the Leafs.
The Leafs next see action on Thursday night with a 7 p.m. starting face-off time at Scotiabank Arena against the Washington Capitals.
PPG-Kyle Okposo (19) 1 – 0
Victor Olofsson (22), Rasmus Dahlin (36)
2:09 Timothy Liljegren (4) 1 – 1
William Nylander (41), Morgan Rielly (52)
9:11 PPG- Tage Thompson (33) 2 – 1
Alex Tuch (24), Henri Jokiharju (13)
4:09 Jeff Skinner (31) 3 – 1
Alex Tuch (25)
5:43 Rasmus Dahlin (10) 4 – 1
Victor Olofsson (23), Rasmus Asplund (19)
8:53 Alexander Kerfoot (13) 4 – 2
Morgan Rielly (53), Pierre Engvall (15)
17:42 EN- Rasmus Asplund (7) 5 – 2