Tuesday evening the Buffalo Sabres were coming off a 4-1 win the prior afternoon over the Dallas Stars hoping to carry the momentum and keep up a hot January. The Sabres were 3-2-1 entering the Air Canada Center. Meanwhile, the divisional rivals Toronto MapleLeafs are having an even hotter stretch. The rookie-laden roster has pumped out an 8-1-1 record in their last 10 games to land themselves third in the Atlantic Division in a playoff spot.
The first period featured a fast, tight-checking pace. After a poor puck play by Leafs goalie Freddie Andersen, William Carrier provided pressure and stripped the puck. Carrier proceeded to send the puck in front of the net to give Kyle Okposo a wide open net to shoot his 13th of the season. Toronto responded with a great deal of offensive zone pressure before Evander Kane scored from the top of the left circle in the last minute of the first period.
The Second period of this game was a different shade of blue. Less than a minute in, Leo Komarov was the beneficiary of a lucky bounce from a shot by Nazem Kadri to cut Buffalo’s lead in half. Matt Martin scored unassisted at 8:29 on a soft shot from Sabres goalie Robin Lehner’s right side. The puck went in the 4-hole on a shot that Lehner clearly lost track of. With that, the Sabres 2-0 lead was erased. The Leafs did not let up. Rookie Phenomenon Auston Matthews scored a little over a minute later to give Toronto a 3-2 lead that would remain until the end of the middle frame. Matthew’s goal was a quick fire laser in the slot that beat Lehner top shelf. Robin Lehner would be pulled for the remainder of the game.
The third period saw both teams exchanging considerable zone time and racing between each end. James Van Riemsdyk scored his 16th of the season to extend the Leafs lead to two at 13:04 into the final period. The goal came on a Leafs power play after Sabre Zach Bogosian boarded Leaf Nikita Zaitsev behind the Toronto net. With a little under three minutes left in the game, William Carrier continued his recent hot streak beating Anderson on a redirect from Zemgus Girgensons. The Sabres applied more pressure late but would ultimately fall short 4-3 in regulation.
The Sabres play next on Friday against another divisional rival. The Detroit Red Wings will visit Key Bank Center in the last meeting between these two teams this season.
Gionta: We’ve got to regroup. We have a Friday/Saturday coming up, we have to get our minds ready.
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) January 18, 2017