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Recap: Sabres dominate Leafs in 5-2 victory

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This might have been the best game of the season.

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Buffalo Sabres Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Coming in to tonight’s game, the big story was about how the Toronto Maple Leafs were fighting for their playoff lives and the Buffalo Sabres weren’t. It was a depressing preview for Sabres fans, and before the game began, it was clear that the KeyBank Center was full of Toronto fans, hoping to see their team take a step closer to that elusive playoff berth.

Instead, they saw their team get smoked by a division rival in a game that showed there’s still life in this Sabres squad yet.

Before the game started, the atmosphere in the Key was electric, mostly thanks to the Leafs fans making plenty of noise, but it would be the Sabres who would strike first, thanks to Ryan O’Reilly, who took a sweet pass from Ennis and slammed it home to give the Sabres a 1-0 lead.

The teams would then trade goals in the first period, with Connor Brown and Evander Kane both scoring fifteen seconds apart from each other, and the Sabres would take a 2-1 lead into the second, which would feature all the rest of the scoring on the night.

Auston Matthews started things off with his 34th goal of the season to tie the game, but the Sabres would respond with three straight goals from Jack Eichel, Dmitry Kulikov, and Eichel again to give the Sabres a 5-2 win.

Jack’s two goals tonight were both things of beauty. His first came on a power paly one-timer, an absolute snipe to the top corner that no goalie will ever stop. His second was a floater over the should of McElhinney, and after scoring, he skated over to a group of Leafs fans sitting on the glass and slammed his fists right up against it. Man, I can’t wait until both of these teams are fighting for playoff spots.

Robin Lehner was stellar tonight, stopping 32 of 34 shots, and making a number of monstrous saves, while the Leafs Frederik Andersen left the game in the first intermission in favor of backup Curtis McElhinney thanks to an injury. Eichel (3), Okposo, O’Reilly, Ennis, and Kulikov had multi-point nights in the victory.

Three Questions

1. How will the team look with all the healthy bodies back in the lineup?

Good! This was perhaps the team’s best win of the season if not of the past month or so. Both Okposo and Kulikov were big factors tonight.

2. Who will carry the load on defense without Rasmus Ristolainen?

McCabe and Kulikov both played over 23 minutes tonight, though the minutes were fairly evenly distributed.

3. Which team will capitalize on the power play?

The Sabres would score on each of their two power plays while the Leafs would fail to score on any of their three chances. And thus the Sabres became the #1 power play team in the league, overtaking the Leafs.

Comment of the Game

After two periods

I think we can conclude that Risto was holding the team back

Posted by Hopefulcynic