Sabres Play Hard, Come Up Short Against Leafs

The Sabres finally showed some signs of life, but it wasn’t enough.  The Toronto Maple Leafs were able to walk away with a 3-2 victory at the Air Canada Centre.

It was a scoreless first period between the two slumping teams, but their slumps didn’t cause a lack of intensity.  The Leafs controlled most of the period, forcing the Sabres into penalties four times.  Fortunately for Buffalo, Ryan Miller was on his game, saving all twelve shots thrown his way.

Zack Kassian tried to stir the pot with Dion Phaneuf each time they were on the ice together.  Kassian immediately made his presence known to Phaneuf the first time they were on the ice together, throwing Phaneuf into the boards until they exchanged a few words with each other.  In the last meeting between these two teams, Dion Phaneuf received a five minute major and was ejected for a boarding call on Kassian.

The Sabres took control of the second period immediately, drawing the Leafs into some very dumb penalties, leading to Buffalo’s first goal.  Buffalo took 15 shots in the first seven minutes of the second period.  Shortly after Nikolai Kulemin went to the box for an interference call on Brayden McNabb, Tyler Bozak made things slightly easier for the Sabres, sending a puck flying out of play in the defensive zone, thrusting the Sabres into a two-man advantage.  The Sabres applied pressure, sending out four forwards and Christian Ehrhoff.

Shortly after the first penalty to Kulemin ended, the Sabres netted the first goal of the game. Pominville potted his 11th goal of the season, taking a tipped pass from Thomas Vanek down with his glove and deflecting it in to the net off of Leafs defenseman Luke Schenn.

The Leafs came right back.  Luke Schenn made amends with himself as he shot a puck through a screen that Miller kicked to the side.  Before Miller could get to the loose puck, David Steckel mustered just enough on the rebound to tie the score.

About a minute later, the Leafs took advantage of a fallen man to take the lead.  Sabres defenseman Robyn Regher fell on a transition through the neutral zone, allowing Leafs leading scorer Phil Kessel to get behind him and tip an easy pass by Miller before Regher could make amends for his mistake, making it 2-1 Leafs.

The Sabres wasted no time at the beginning of the 3rd period.  Taking a nice pass from Pominville, Derek Roy found himself in alone on James Reimer.  Roy buried it home to tie the score.  The Leafs were quick to bounce back, as Clarke MacArthur made a nice drop pass to Leafs rookie Nazem Kadri, who scored his first of the season to put the Leafs ahead once more.

The injuries keep piling up for the Sabres.  Thomas Vanek played for the first two periods, but did not return for the third.  He went out with an upper-body injury.

Hope remained with the Sabres, as Nazem Kadri tripped up Christian Ehrhoff as he made an effort to enter the Leaf zone with 4:03 remaining, but that proved unsuccessful, as the Sabres could not generate any sort of pressure, frequently seeing the puck sail into their own zone as the Leafs killed the penalty.

The Sabres pulled Miller with about 1:15 remaining in the third period, but the Sabres simply couldn’t enter the opposing zone.

Although at first things seemed promising, the Sabres once again squandered a chance in another potential four point game with their division rivals.  Falling to 16-15-3, and potentially two spots in the conference, the Sabres need to right the ship, fast.

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