Although the Sabres struck first and held onto the lead in the first period, the Toronto Maple Leafs (44-25-5) leave Buffalo with a 4-2 win for just the second time in six games.
Trailing 1-0 after an opening period the Leafs responded by scoring three consecutive goals, including John Tavares and Mitchell Marner scored 1:50 apart. Tavares and Auston Matthews each had a goal and assist — Matthews reached 200 NHL points for the Leafs. Zach Hyman also scored on an empty net, pushing the Maple Leafs within four points of the Boston Bruins for second place in the Atlantic Division standings.
“The little slump we’ve been in late, it’s frustrating for everybody. You try to stay positive,” Matthews said. “Everybody was prepared tonight despite the back to back, and everybody came out flying.”
Casey Mittelstadt and Alexander Nylander (his first of the season) scored the only goals for Buffalo. This loss means the Sabres, now 31-33-9, have gone 41 games since winning consecutive outings on Dec. 11-13. Carter Hutton made 42 saves in a game Toronto outshot Buffalo 46-24. Rasmus Dahlin, who recorded the primary assist on Casey Mittelstadt’s goal, now has 39 points (8G, 31A) on the season, passing Bobby Orr for second-most points by an 18-year-old defenseman in NHL history. He trails only Phil Housley (57 points in 1982-83).
“It’s obviously frustrating here on home ice,” Hutton said. “We get a big win and then we can’t answer the bell here today.”
Garret Sparks stopped 22 shots for Toronto, who was playing on consecutive nights after a 3-0 loss at Nashville.
“Just tonight, if I’m looking at tonight, I’m very, very disappointed in our game, because it’s a rivalry and we knew the magnitude of the game, and we didn’t execute,” Coach Phil Housley said.
The Sabres will get a short break before opening a three-game road trip against Montreal Canadiens on Saturday.