The first meeting between American superstars Jack Eichel and Auston Matthews will have to wait, but the 2016-17 regular season series between the Buffalo Sabres and the Toronto Maple Leafs got off to a fun start Thursday evening inside the KeyBank Center.
It was more fun for the fans who traveled over the border to be in attendance, as the Leafs skated off with the 2-1 victory, snapping Buffalo’s three-game winning streak.
The Sabres weren’t without an effort tonight, bombarding the Leafs’ net with 43 shots on goal. Toronto netminder Frederik Andersen—who continues to be perfect against the Sabres in his NHL career—foiled all but one of those shots en route to undoubtedly his best performance so far this season. He came into the game with an .891 save percentage and a 3.46 goals against average.
Robin Lehner put on an impressive showing of his own, stopping 27 shots. He gave the Sabres their best chance to win, but it was a quiet offense that ultimately doomed Buffalo’s chances against their longtime division rival. The lack of results are undeniably a disappointment, especially when the team had averaged 27 shots a game heading into tonight, by comparison. Two failed power play opportunities also earned their share of blame for the Buffalo loss.
Toronto’s offense wasn’t ablaze, either, but Mitch Marner’s two-goal night proved enough to give his team a pair of points. He lit up the scoreboard early—just a little over four minutes into the first period—when he tapped home a pass from Tyler Bozak before Lehner could even see the puck go past him.
Marner added his second after just 1:50 played in the second period, but without an assist. A pass from behind the Buffalo net caromed off several players, but Marner found it as he charged to the crease and feinted around Lehner to slip the puck in and double Toronto’s lead.
Buffalo’s lone goal came from a player once again getting familiarized with the scoresheet this year as he was toward the end of last season. Marcus Foligno tallied his second goal this season only a few minutes after the Leafs went up 2-0. Following sustained pressure in the Leafs’ end, Foligno batted a bouncing puck near the crease into the open net. Johan Larsson and Sam Reinhart assisted on the goal.
The Leafs are off to a hot start for the month of November, racking up two wins and four precious points. Tonight was their first road win on the young season, and puts them within one win of the .500 mark—a position they haven’t enjoyed in some time.
Toronto will enjoy a three-game stint at home after this, while Buffalo heads to Ottawa for a Saturday night meeting with the Senators this weekend. It’ll be the opening half of a home-and-away tilt between the two teams, as Ottawa will then visit the Sabres inside Keybank Center next Wednesday.