Buffalo caps off their four-game home stand with a great win over the Toronto Maple Leafs at KeyBank Center. This key win over a divisional opponent should spark confidence in the locker room as they show they can perform through sixty minutes.
Toronto fans made their presence felt, changing the dynamic on home ice. The environment was loud and cheers were heard in both directions, but Buffalo did the little things right throughout the game and it was noticeable in the final score. Control on the power play, actively passing off coverage in the defensive zone, and solid saves from Carter Hutton were among the high notes.
“He’s really calm out there. Sometimes we get a little frustrated and we go all over the place. It’s nice to have the experience to keep us all calm.” – Rasmus Ristolainen discussing Carter Hutton
Don’t get me wrong, there were still mistakes. Play in the neutral zone and recovery after turnovers gave Toronto both of their goals. The first being the most egregious as Egor Korshkov scored his first NHL goal off a turnover while Buffalo was trying to break out of the zone. Toronto looked like they were going to take over the game, but the Sabres were able to recover after Zach Hyman tied it early in the third period.
|2||1:32||Johan Larsson (6)||Colin Miller (9)||Rasmus Dahlin (31)|
|2||9:42||Conor Sheary (9)||Colin Miller (10)||Evan Rodrigues (4)|
|2||11:29||Egor Korshkov (1)||Jason Spezza (13)||Kyle Clifford (9)|
|3||2:11||Zach Hyman (18)||Jake Muzzin (13)||Mitch Marner (45)|
|3||6:06||PPG||Jack Eichel (33)||Victor Olofsson (20)||Rasmus Ristolainen (22)|
|3||6:55||Kyle Okposo (6)|
|3||7:37||Jimmy Vesey (9)||Rasmus Ristolainen (23)|
“We’re starting to get the confidence going in the (locker) room. I think that’s everything. We’re starting to get contributions throughout the lineup.” – Jack Eichel
The Sabres certainly did see contributions throughout the lineup tonight getting goals from five and points from ten different players. The powerplay went one for three with great zone possession time and plenty of shots on goal. The powerplay would eventually lead to the game-winner from Jack Eichel on a feed from Victor Olofsson, a reverse of the previous game-winner. The ensuing tallies from Kyle Okposo and Jimmy Vesey sealed the deal.
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) February 17, 2020
Buffalo owned most of the statistical categories throughout the night with 14 more shots, 19% better in the faceoff circle, and six more hits. Toronto still held on for most of the game, backstopped by Fred Anderson stopping 26 of 28 shots in the first two periods. Buffalo’s ability to sling three of eight shots past Anderson in just 1:31 showed how explosive they can be and took the wind out of Toronto’s sails.
The Maple Leafs still hang on to their third-place spot in the Atlantic, four points ahead of the Florida Panthers. Toronto has gone .500 in the month of February to hold that spot, but have done nothing to further secure it as they are still 13 points behind the second-place Tampa Bay Lightning. This is important for Buffalo’s playoff hopes, as they are closer to third place in the Atlantic than they are the Wild Card spots.
Buffalo goes on the road for the first time in nearly two weeks to battle the Ottawa Senators in the Canadian Tire Centre on Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. Another opportunity for the Sabres to control their destiny this season with a divisional opponent.