Did you guys enjoy that winning streak? Were you starting to feel confident that this team would actually show up ready to play? Were you feeling comfortable? STOP THAT!!! That’s exactly what the Leafs were feeling, right about the time this game started and clearly, that ended poorly.
Obviously the big question is the health of Frederik Andersen who exited the game after the first period with a possible concussion on the advice of Buffalo’s team doctor. Curtis McElhinney wasn’t good at all, but that doesn’t exactly terrify me, because he’s been pretty bad in all of his relief appearances, but the majority of his starts, he’s been pretty good with the exception of the Columbus game, where the Leafs let him down early, and the Anaheim game, where he just wasn’t good. If he has to start a couple of games, it’ll probably be fine, and might even help Andersen to get some time off and return fresh.
The Sabres scored first after Ryan O’Reilly fired home a pass from Tyler Ennis, however the Leafs answered right back when Connor Brown cleaned up the rebound on Leo Komarov’s shot to tie the game at one. The tie was short lived however, as Evander Kane would tap home a rebound to give the Sabres a 2-1 lead just 15 seconds later. That’s how the first period would end, with the Leafs in striking distance. It would be mostly downhill from there, as the second period would start with the news that Freddie was out of the game. There was a bright spot however, as Auston Matthews would tie the game at two. The goal was Matthews’ 34th of the season, tying Wendel Clark’s record for most goals by a Leafs rookie. The celebration lasted 25 seconds, as Matt Martin took a penalty for interference, Ben Smith lost the ensuing faceoff, and Jack Eichel ripped home a one timer to give the Sabres a 3-2 lead. Far be it for me to question Mike Babcock, however, we’ve seen Ben Smith lose defensive zone, penalty kill faceoffs for 39 games, we traded for Brian Boyle specifically for this situation, so why was Smith taking the faceoff. It may have been on his strong side, but the reality is, Ben Smith isn’t good, I’d rather have Boyle lose the faceoff on his weak side, because at least in that case, there’s no question, he just got beat. Dmitry Kulikov score on a power play with a blast from the point to make it 4-2 Buffalo, and then Jack Eichel scored his second of night to make it 5-2. Honestly, aside from Matthews goal, the second period of this game is the stuff Leafs fans nightmares are made of. The third period provided no relief as the Leafs were unable to cut into the lead, and went out with a whimper. They’ll be in action again on Tuesday night, against Florida at the ACC, where they’ll look to avenge the beating they took in Florida two weeks ago.
SCORING BY PERIOD
Buffalo Goal 7:05 R. O’Reilly (18) assisted by T. Ennis and K. Okposo
Toronto Goal 9:30 C. Brown (18)
Buffalo Goal 9:45 E. Kane (26) assisted by Z. Bogosian and R. O’Reilly
Toronto Goal 2:22 A. Matthews (34) assisted by M. Hunwick and W. Nylander
Buffalo Goal 2:47 J. Eichel (22) (power play) assisted by D. Kulikov and K. Okposo
Buffalo Goal 5:59 D. Kulikov (2) (power play) assisted by T. Ennis and J. Eichel
Buffalo Goal 13:12 J. Eichel (23) assisted by S. Reinhart and J. Falk
SHOTS ON GOAL BY PERIOD
MIKE BABCOCK POST GAME
MAPLE LEAFS GAME IN SIX