No matter how you slice it, the Buffalo Sabres just aren’t getting it done. Coming into this game, I was feeling good about their chances against the Maple Leafs. I knew the loss to their division rival Senators earlier this week had to motivate the team to want the win that much more. I was pleased with fast and physical style of play demonstrated by the Sabres and it was nice to see Drew Stafford finally stepping up last night, especially with the laundry list of injuries facing the team right now. Although he had no points to show for, his play was noticeably more aggressive and physical, something we need to see more out of him. But with all that being said, the Sabres just could not find a way to get it done on the scoreboard.
The Sabres grabbed the lead first when Jason Pominville opened up the scoring midway through the second period, getting his 11th goal of the season. At that point in the period, Buffalo was pouring it on with a 15-1 shot advantage. The Sabres let up the momentum and allowed the Leafs to tie it up later on in the second with a goal from David Steckel. Shortly after, Phil Kessel scored the go-ahead goal on a Robyn Regehr error. Regehr was covering Kessel on the play and tripped in the zone giving Kessel the separation he needed to put away a pass from Joffrey Lupul that gave Toronto the lead. With Kessel’s goal last night, he has reached the 20 goal mark on the season as he continues to tear it up in the stat column for the Leafs.
“The effort was there,” Pominville said after the game. “We generated some opportunities but I think it’s the mental mistakes that are costing us right now. We talked about not over back checking and we get caught over back checking. We’ve got to go out there and execute, we say all the right things but until we go out there and do it, it’s not good enough.”
Derek Roy capitalized on a turnover in the Leafs zone that tied it up early on in the third period, though the Sabres were not able to hold off the Toronto attack for very long. Nazem Kadri netted his first goal of the season on a wicked wrist shot that would end up being a game winner for the Leafs. Kadri was recalled from the AHL Wednesday which turned out to be a great move by Toronto. Ryan Miller looked foolish on the shot, barely waving at the puck as it beat him high glove side. When Miller is playing his best, getting a puck by him is impossible, but unfortunately we haven’t witnessed his best play much at all this season. One weak point that is becoming more and more noticeable is his high glove side. Opposing players are beginning to target him there and are finding success more often than they should.
“It was a game we started to play much better and could have controlled,” Miller said. “It was unfortunate to let them get back into it in the second period. It was frustrating to let it get away. Effort equals opportunity and opportunity is what you need in this league.”
On the other end of the ice, James Reimer had a solid game in net for the Leafs stopping 40 shots which was a vital component to defeating the Sabres last night. Reimer would receive a well deserved second star of the game and improve his record to 5-3-3 on the season.
The intensity was there for the Sabres. They battled hard but the little mistakes cost them the game. With back to back losses to division opponents, the Sabres find themselves desperate for a win. It was good to see Jason Pominville getting angry and fired up after the game because everyone else in Western New York is feeling the same way. The opportunities were there but like Pominville said, it’s all about execution. Teams that fail to execute just flat out won’t win games. With the midway point of the season rapidly approaching, the swords have got to find a way to scrape out wins with the injury riddled team they have. The Sabres are home on Monday to take on the Washington Capitals. As of right now each team has only 35 points on the season as they find themselves slumping in the Eastern Conference standings.