Boy oh boy, was I excited for this game. Separated by just 90 miles, bouts between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres are always a spectacle. As usual, Leaf fans were out in full force, which I don’t mind. The First Niagara Center is electric with the home crowd trying to drown out the pesky Canadian faithful. Needless to say, the first five minutes did not disappoint. John Scott and Frazer McLaren had a slugfest just two minutes in off a faceoff. Personally, this is my favorite type of showdown; where it’s a matter of the referee dropping the puck for the sparks to fly. However, nothing can trump the line fights we are accustomed to between the Rangers and Devils.
Colton Orr made an early departure after trying to poach Patrick Kaleta during the Scott McLaren fight, leaving the Sabres with a four minutes powerplay. Unfortunatley, the boys in dark blue were unable to capitalize on the man advantage. I was truly impressed with Buffalo’s physical play to start the game, until the Maple Leafs went up 2-0 with goals from Tyler Bozak and Nazem Kadri just one minute apart. At this point, my thoughts of victory faded into “Oh no…not again.” As the 1st period came to a close, Tyler Ennis settled my nerves with a powerplay goal set up by Steve Ott and Christian Ehrhoff. Halfway through the 2nd period, Mikhail Grabovski put the Leafs back up by two and that is when the Sabres kicked it into high gear. If Buffalo can play like they did during the 2nd period, the playoffs will be a legitimate possibility. Needless to say it was an onslaught. Marcus Foligno and Jason Pominville scored to even the score at three. Throughout the later half of the period, the Leafs resembled the Sabres when they were at their worst.
On the power play, Ehrhoff drilled a shot from the point less than 30 seconds into the 3rd to put the Sabres up by one. The Sabres played well during the period, rarely finding themselves stuck in their own end while keeping pressure on the Leafs. Just over five minutes later, Kadri put away his second of the game, capping off a three point night, to tie it at four. From here on out, it was deadlocked through OT. Drew Stafford lucked out with a dribbler over James Reimer’s shoulder to keep the shootout alive. It took 12 shooters to send Toronto packing after Ott put away a smooth backhander
I’ll leave you with an interesting little factoid. Even with four goals, no Buffalo skater was positive, while the Leafs had no players negative in the +/- column. While not the most ideal scenario, I can stomach those statistics for two points.
In addition to points, we came away with of one of the best Carubba Collisions we’ve seen this season from Steve Ott and I’m sure it won’t be the last.