Looking to send Leafs fans back home with a loss, the Sabres hosted their division rivals for the second time in their final match-up of the season.
The first big scoring chance of the game came from Jack Eichel and his linemates, but the score remained 0-0 even after two consecutive penalties - one from Johan Larsson with goaltender interference and the other from Eichel with cross-checking.
At 13:16, Zach Hyman handed the Sabres their first power-play of the night after hooking Jeff Skinner. Casey Mittelstadt would change the scoreboard to 1-0 with a rebound shot off of the boards to give the home team the lead. Rasmus Dahlin and Eichel were credited with the assists.
In the final minute of the first period, it would be Hyman to take another penalty, but the score remained 1-0 into the starting seconds of the second period.
However, it did not take the Leafs long to respond with a quick goal off of Auston Matthews’ right skate to tie the game at one goal apiece. Matthews’ goal came at 1:43 with help from Andreas Johnsson and Jake Muzzin.
A majority of the second period was somewhat uneventful despite some solid efforts from both ends of the rink. That is, until Toronto took their first lead of the game at 18:32 thanks to John Tavares, who tapped in the goal with a lucky bounce off of Eichel’s skate.
In the first :22 of the concluding period, Toronto widened the gap by adding a goal to make it 3-1. Much like all of the Leafs’ goals tonight, it found the back of the net by deflecting off a player’s skate. The player this time would be Rasmus Ristolainen, with Mitch Marner getting credit for the change in score.
Buffalo battled back briefly, though, with a quick slap-shot by Alexander Nylander - his first goal of the NHL season, having recently been called up from Rochester.
The home team would not regain their original lead and, after an empty-net goal by Toronto, the final scoreboard read 4-2 in favor of the Maple Leafs. Despite a solid effort by the Sabres and Carter Hutton looking steady in the net, the Sabres now hold a disheartening 31-33-9 record with playoff hopes in the rear view.
Final: Leafs 4, Sabres 2
Shots on Goal: Sabres 24 | Leafs 46
Sabres Goal Scorers: Casey Mittelstadt (11th, PPG), Alexander Nylander (1st)
Leafs Goal Scorers: Auston Matthews (35th), John Tavares (41st), Mitch Marner (25th), Zach Hyman (18th, EN)
Three Stars of the Game
- Auston Matthews
- John Tavares
- Carter Hutton