Game 31: Blow Leafs Blow

In what was easily the best home game of the year, the Sabres held on to a 5-4 win against the Maple Leafs. The arena was electric the whole time, which is something that should be a more common occurrence if they play like they did tonight more often.

1st Period: Toronto came out flying like bats out of hell, peppering Ryan Miller with plenty of shots and sustaining plenty of time in the Sabres zone through the first five minutes; it was so bad that the Leafs looked like they were on a power play the whole time. Thankfully, Miller was sharp. The Sabres started playing a little better after that, but they were still getting dominated. Another thing that should be noted is that Gragnani was rotating with Weber and McNabb, not playing on the 4th line. Not sure what he’s done to call for special treatment like that, but I digress. Only the Adam- Gaustad-Kassian line was able to sustain offensive zone time on a regular basis. Vanek and Roy’s line each had a couple of really nice scoring chances too, but they couldn’t score.

Matt Ellis would take the game’s first penalty with 4:25 left in the period to give the Leafs a power play. Toronto would have a decent amount of success at puck possession, but their scoring chances were limited and they would not score. The play was pretty even during the last couple of minutes after that, but again, no goals were scored, so both teams went into the locker room, knotted up in a scoreless tie going into the 2nd. The best Sabres player of the period in my opinion was Mike Weber. He played 7:28, had four hits and three blocked shots, and just played a very simple, smart game on defense.

2nd Period: Both teams played some even hockey to start things off, but the Leafs would open up the scoring just two minutes in. Vanek, who was covering the point tried to stand up his man instead of backing up, which resulted in a 2-on-1 for Lupul and Kessel. Lupul took the pass from Kessel and put it up over a sprawling Miller to give the Leafs a 1-0 lead. About a couple of minutes after that, Kassian drew a holding penalty, courtesy of Carl Gunnarsson. The Sabres would work the puck down low and Vanek would redeem himself by feeding a wide-open Drew Stafford on the back-door feed to tie the game up at 1-1.  Derek Roy would take a stupid tripping penalty with about 12:30 left in the period to give Toronto a 2nd power play opportunity. The Leafs would score on a point shot from Dion Phaneuf that Miller couldn’t see through a Lupul-screen to give them the lead again, 2-1. It didn’t last though. Kassian would do some great work and win a battle to give him and Vanek a 2-on-1. Vanek took the pass, hesitated to make Reimer go down and picked the corner to tie the game once again, 2-2. The effort for Buffalo was much better than their early part of the first.

Ellis got tripped up by MacArthur who was backchecking to give Buffalo their second power play and almost immediately after it starter, Pominville got a stick in the face by Dupuis to give the Sabres a long 5-on-3. The Sabres would score their second power play goal during that time, thanks to a one-time blast by Tyler Ennis. Buffalo would still be on the power play since the other penalty hadn’t expired yet and right after it expired,  they would get yet another chance at a full 2:00 minute opportunity after Roy got hauled down. Phaneuf would get a 5-minute major penalty and a game misconduct for boarding Kassian towards the end of the last penalty. About a minute in, Sekera beat Reimer on the short-side to extend the Sabres lead to 4-2. Buffalo wouldn’t score anymore in the period, but they would still have 2:38 of power play time to start the 3rd.

3rd Period: Toronto would be successful in killing off the remaining part of the major penalty. Buffalo carried over that momentum on the power play to even-strength and were thoroughly outplaying the Leafs. The Leafs would pick things up around the 13-minute mark to tilt the ice more towards their liking, but Ryan Miller and the defense stood their ground. Later on, Leopold would make a bad play at the point and allow Kulemin go by him on a breakaway that forced Ehrhoff to take a penalty, which resulted in a penalty shot. Kulemin came in wide and made Miller open up enough for him to put the puck past him to cut the Sabres lead to one, 4-3. Before I go further into this recap, I just thought everyone should know that since Kulemin got a shot off on the play, he shouldn’t have gotten a penalty shot. As you might have expected, that goal gave the Leafs some momentum and they had the Sabres on their heels.

Fortunately, Derek Roy and Thomas Vanek would turn the tables on the Leafs. Roy made a great play to spring Vanek and he blew a shot past Reimer on the breakaway to give Buffalo a two-goal lead again, 5-3. As quickly as they got that two-goal lead back, it was gone. Ryan Miller kicked the puck out to Weber who whiffed on the clearing attempt which allowed Grabovski to shoot the puck into the open net to make it a one-goal game once more, 5-4. The Leafs would pull the goalie to try and tie the game to no avail and they went on to lose this game.

Quick-hits:

-Robyn Regehr had his first off-game as a member of the Sabres. He was having trouble handling the puck all night. He wasn’t horrible, but he wasn’t playing up to his usual standards.

-Zack Kassian looked like freaking Jaromir Jagr down-low. I think he has a place on the team. Just my two cents…

-Sekera and Weber were the team’s best two defensemen.

-Good to see Vanek get off the schneid with 2 goal, 4 point game.

-Other than the stupid penalty, Roy was good tonight.

-Ryan Miller stood tall in goal when the Sabres were on their heels at times during the game. The goal total may not show that, but he did have a very good night.

-Vanek, Stafford, Pominville, Ennis, and Kassian paced the offense overall.

-Defensive-zone work still needs improvement, but at least they won.

Scoring Per Period

1

2

3

Total

Buffalo

0

4

1

5

Toronto

0

2

2

4

Shots On Goal

1

2

3

Total

Buffalo

8

10

11

29

Toronto

14

8

11

33

Team Stats

Hits

Giveaways

Takeaways

Faceoffs Won

PIM

Buffalo

21

10

6

36

4

Toronto

20

9

2

33

23

Scoring Summary:

Buffalo- Stafford PP (Vanek, Pominville), Vanek (Kassian), Ennis PP (Stafford, Pominville), Sekera PP (Ehrhoff, Ennis), Vanek (Roy)

Toronto- Lupul (Kessel), Phaneuf PP (Bozak, Liles), Kulemin (Penalty Shot), Grabovski (Gunnarsson, Crabb)

Power Play:

Buffalo: 3-for-6

Toronto: 1-for-2

Game Scoresheet

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