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Knee-Jerk Reaction: Buffalo Sabres vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

The Buffalo Sabres snapped a five-game losing streak tonight, defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs in overtime by a score of 3-2. A chippy game with some ups and downs eventually resulted in a Sabres victory, making the Toronto Maple Leafs the lone team to suffer two losses at the hands of the Sabres this season.

In an arena filled with Leafs fans – presumably many of whom came down to the States for some Black Friday shopping before the game – the Buffalo Sabres were able to play hard, put together a solid team effort and eventually come away with the extra point.

I didn’t get a chance to watch Wednesday’s game when the Buffalo Sabres lost to the Montreal Canadiens – I was actually in Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving and was watching the Leafs face off (and lose to!) the Pittsburgh Penguins that night. All this to say that I can’t draw any conclusions about how the Buffalo squad played tonight versus how they played on Wednesday, but there were plenty of good things to take away from tonight’s game.

The game didn’t start off on a high note, as Phil Kessel opened the scoring on the Leafs’ first shot of the game – and their first shot in general in over 27:12 of play, dating back to Wednesday’s game. Uh, oops. But alas, it was only one goal and left the Buffalo Sabres plenty of time to catch up.

That’s exactly what they did when just under eight minutes into the second period, Matt Moulson scored a power play goal to tie the game at one, with his third goal as a member of the Buffalo Sabres and 10th on the season overall. Minutes later, Nikolai Kulemin scored for Toronto to put the Leafs ahead again.

Shortly after Kulemin’s goal, Cody Franson served a roughing penalty after pushing Sabres forward Drew Stafford into the boards from behind. Matt Moulson stepped up to Stafford’s defense after the hit – and both he and Franson were subsequently given roughing penalties. It’s a small move that absolutely can’t be underestimated – stepping up to defend a teammate and willing to get in there – absolutely great energy by Matt Moulson at that moment.

The game was far from over, of course, and none other than Luke Adam would tie the game at two. Adam’s goal came with just 10 seconds left in the second period and marked his first NHL goal since April 2013. Adam’s goal came as a result of being left alone on the side of the net, and he was able to get his hands on the puck and bank it in without a second glance. In his fourth NHL game this season, it was great to see Adam score, particularly since he’s had such a great year with the AHL’s Rochester Americans up to this point. A well-deserved callup has lead to him working hard to prove he deserves to be here – and stay here – with the Buffalo Sabres.

After a scoreless third period, the Leafs now faced extra time for the second consecutive game. Wednesday’s game in Pittsburgh saw them get no shots in the third period and no shots in overtime before losing in a shootout; tonight’s game didn’t take quite as long. Just 35 seconds in – with a Buffalo power play just ended – Christian Ehrhoff scored on a wrist shot from the point that was just a beautifully set up play, designed to get that game-winning shot – and it did.

So. Okay, everything may not have gone the Buffalo Sabres’ way tonight – they were only 1/4 on the power play and let the Leafs score on their first shot of the game, were outhit 29-17 and had nine giveaways.

But the things that DID go right far outnumbered the bad. Not only did the Sabres win; they outshot Toronto, 29-24; faceoff draws were even, and the Sabres had more takeaways and less penalties, limiting a very lethal Toronto power play. Luke Adam had his first NHL goal of the season and had a solid night. Christian Ehrhoff, Ville Leino and Tyler Myers all had two-point nights. Matt D’Agostini showed great chemistry with his linemates in his first game as a member of the Buffalo Sabres organization and ended the game with a plus-1 and three shots.

Need I go on?

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Tags: Buffalo Sabres Toronto Maple Leafs

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