The Buffalo Sabres gave half the fans at the First Niagara Center something to cheer about on Friday night with their 3-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs. The other half probably just drowned their sorrows in something across the Peace Bridge.
The game started with two quick goals for the Sabres, the first coming at the 1:05 mark of the first period on an ugly goal by Matt Ellis. The second came almost three minutes later as Paul Gaustad found the back of the net. The Sabres played a sound defensive first 10 minutes as the first Maple Leafs shot on goal didn't come until 7:30 into the game.
Those two quick goals helped the Sabres as the Maple Leafs were able to crawl back into the game by scoring two goals in the final six minutes of the first. Mikael Grabovski scored at 14:06 of the period off a nice feed by Luke Schenn. 2:46 later, Grabovski returns the favor for Joey Crabb as Crabb scores.
It looked for a while that the game was going to stall out at that point. The Leafs and Sabres had managed only 14 combined shots in the first period and neither team was generating much offensive pressure in the second period either. Then Thomas Vanek plucked the puck out of the corner and found Jason Pominville in front of the net for the Sabres third goal. It was Pominville's 15th goal of the season and Vanek's 22nd assist.
From there, the Sabres just played defensive hockey. They only generated nine shots on goal in the third period and only allowed nine shots to Toronto. Ryan Miller had to make some key saves to keep the Sabres in the period, but he didn't have to work that hard. Miller finished the game with 24 saves. At the other end of the ice, Jonas Gustavsson made a huge save on Derek Roy to keep the Maple Leafs to within one goal, but it wasn't enough. Gustavsson had 22 saves on the night in the losing effort.
More player specific tidbits after the jump.
- While the Sabres got back an offensive player in Derek Roy, they lost another defensive player in Brayden McNabb. McNabb was hit in the first period and eventually had to leave the game due to concussion symptoms. According to Lindy Ruff's postgame conference, it is not likely that McNabb will play tomorrow against the Islanders.
- That will probably mean more Marc-Andre Gragnani who had a team low 7:51 seconds of ice time. Gragnani didn't register much on the scoreboard as his only contribution was two penalties, a cross checking penalty in the second period and a chinzy high sticking penalty in the third period. With McNabb out of the lineup, expect Gragnani's ice time to go up.
- Another defenseman that had a bad night, albeit not all his fault, was Mike Weber. Weber finished the night with 19:58 of ice time, much of that coming in the 3rd period. Weber's biggest highlight of the night was him tangling up with Nikolai Kulemin for the Leafs 2nd goal. Weber falls down and promptly gives the puck away to Grabovski who takes care of the rest.
- On the offensive side of the puck, Nathan Gerbe had a good night with three shots on goal and the Roy/Stafford/Gerbe generated a few chances, but none of them could actually finish those chances. Roy and Gerbe tied with Luke Adam for the team lead with three shots a piece.
- This is the first game that Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul were both held pointless in the same game this season. Kessel finished the game a -2 with 20:50 of ice time and five shots on goal. Lupul was -2 as well with 19:13 of ice time and 3 shots on goal.
The Sabres will start their seven game road trip with a game against the New York Islanders on Saturday night.