The Toronto Maple Leafs used a three goal third period to defeat the Buffalo Sabres 4-1 tonight at the Air Canada Centre. The Sabres were without Jack Eichel who sat out with the flu and Buffalo looked like the team that played back-to-back games as they fell apart in the third period of tonight’s contest.
The Sabres played very conservative to start the game, only mustering three shots and getting outplayed much of the first period by the Maple Leafs. Buffalo did however get the only goal of the period, which started with some good forechecking by the line of Larsson, Foligno, and Gionta.
The play ended with a neat give-and-go passing play between Foligno and Gionta with Gionta wristing a shot from the right faceoff circle. The shot beat Toronto netminder Garret Sparks high on the glove side for Gionta’s 10th of the year, giving the Sabres a 1-0 lead.
Buffalo seemed to find their legs in the second period and stirred up some decent scoring chances, at least it was that way until the 14:55 mark of the period. After a Rasmus Ristolainen’s hooking penalty just came to an end, Toronto’s P.A. Parenteau slid a pass in the slot to William Nylander who snapped a shot just below the crossbar to beat Chad Johnson and tie the game. The two teams went to the dressing room knotted at one.
The first six minutes of the third was evenly played by the two teams, but after that the Leafs took over and never looked back.
Goals by Connor Carrick and Martin Marincin put Toronto up 3-1 about half way through the period. With the Sabres putting on strong pressure and taking some extra chances to get back in the game, the Leafs broke out of their zone with a two on one break. Milan Michalek skated in on Johnson and put the game out of reach with a nice wrist shot past the Buffalo net minder. The Maple Leafs went on to beat the Sabres 4-1.
Tonight’s loss ended Chad Johnson’s five-game winning streak in net for Buffalo.
Buffalo will look to win the season series with the Leafs when the two teams meet March 31 at the First Niagara Center. Besides tonight’s loss, Buffalo won two previous games this season against Toronto, both by shootouts.
Next up for the Sabres will be Tuesday evening against the Hurricanes at the PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C.