Buffalo slowed by Toronto


In the final game of the season series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Buffalo Sabres lost 5-2 in a lackluster performance at the Air Canada Centre.

It’s been said of late that the Sabres can’t handle any success. Tonight was another glaring example.

Despite keeping pace with the Leafs through the early portions of the game, the salt in the wound came only in the second period as William Nylander potted two consecutive goals – his 18th and 19th of the season.

Around seven minutes into the middle frame, Auston Matthews, on a crafty pass, set Nylander up for an abrupt breakaway. After splitting Justin Falk and Marco Scandella on defense, he then buried one past Chad Johnson.

Only a few minutes later Sam Reinhart coughed up a bad giveaway in the neutral zone, leading to a Leafs odd-man rush and another Nylander goal – this time set up by Zach Hyman. Toronto owned a 4-1 lead not even halfway through the second period.

So much for following up the game in Nashville with a competitive performance…

Though Reinhart’s giveaway led to a daunting three-goal deficit, Sam was the lone goal scorer for the Sabres through 40 minutes. His goal came on the power-play in the opening minute of the second period, thanks to a double-minor hi-sticking infraction assessed to Roman Polak a period prior.

Sam’s goal came in typical Sam fashion. His elite net-front presence was on full display as he tipped a Rasmus Ristolainen shot past the Leafs netminder Curtis McElhinney, tying the game at 1. That goal represents career highs in both goals (24) and points (48) for Reinhart.

Although trailing 4-1, Buffalo retained some semblance of a comeback early in the third period as Jason Pominville notched a power-play goal – his 14th of the season and 3rd against the Leafs. However, shortly after, young Casey Mittelstadt took a hi-sticking penalty, prompting an extremely deadly Toronto power-play.

The obvious rivalry within a rivalry is the matchup Jack Eichel vs. Auston Matthews. Jack was a standout in the prior games vs. the Leafs while Auston was either absent or quiet. Tonight Matthews was the player to watch.

While Middlestadt sat in the penalty box, Matthews ripped home his 33rd goal of the season and his second of the game. That made it 5-2, Leafs.

Special teams were crucial in tonight’s rivalry matchup. The Leafs capitalized on two of their three opportunities, supplementing the rest of their scoring at even strength. Toronto has been the most productive team all season long 5 on 5.

The Sabres continued their power-play success, stretching back to last game, going 2-for-5. However, they were inept at even strength, generating most of their chances from the perimeter and not causing much havoc in front of McElhinney.

The Leafs and Sabres end up splitting their four-game series at two games apiece. The Sabres play next at home vs. the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday. Puck drop is slated for 7:30 p.m. as this Sabres season mercifully grinds to an end.




Matt Studemeyer
Although born and raised in Charleston, SC, I've had a passion for both hockey and the Buffalo Sabres since childhood. In addition to writing, I'm also an avid musician/guitarist and currently work in the moving and transportation industry.
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