The first period was not indicative of how this game would turn out. After a scoreless 20 minutes of play, the teams combined for six goals in the second period, with four of them scored by Buffalo.
Dion Phaneuf’s five minute boarding penalty (and game misconduct) was a catalyst for the Sabres surge of goals.
“Both teams went after it,” Lindy Ruff said. “We owed our fans a little something, we gave Leafs fans something too, but overall it was good night.”
There was an onslaught of Toronto penalties during the second period and a parade to the penalty box, giving the Sabres a chance to do some damage, and indeed they did.
Five Maple Leafs penalties led to three Buffalo goals, and in a nine minute span, the Sabres went from being down 2-1 to up 4-2.
Buffalo came into the night with an 11-0-2 record when leading after two period, and the Maple Leafs were 1-11-3 when trailing after 40 minutes.
The Leafs closed the gap to one thanks to a Nikolai Kulemin penalty shot. Late in the third, Thomas Vanek breakaway walked in a ripped one by James Reimer for his second goal of the night.
But once again, the Leafs wouldn’t go away quietly. Less than half a minute later Mikhail Grabovski cut the lead in half, and it was 5-4. The Leafs pulled their goaltender, but were unable to tie it up and the Sabres earned a hard-fought two points.
With the win, the Sabres move ahead of the Leafs and into 6th place in the Eastern Conference.
Vanek’s four points gives him 41 in 39 career games against the Leafs. Him and Derek Roy were each playing their 500th career game on Friday.
“His first goal was a hell of a shot,” Ruff said. “His 2nd goal, he made it look easy, like it was practice.”
The Leafs had won three straight against Buffalo, but haven’t won four consecutive since the 1971-72 season.
Much was made about Tim Connolly’s return but he went generally unnoticed as the goals and power plays got the crowd going. Connolly was held in check as he didn’t record a point on the night.
Ryan Miller stopped 29 of 33 shots on the night, earning the victory. At the other end, Reimer managed to stop 24 of 29 in a losing effort.
The Sabres will head to Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins Saturday night. Buffalo defeated the Pens earlier this season by a 3-2 score with Jhonas Enroth making 30 saves in the win.