NHL's Worst-Ranked Offence Take Down the Maple Leafs
Buffalo (5) Toronto (3) Final
Monday, March 5, 2018
Monday night marked the very first meeting of the season between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres, who remain bitter rivals from across the Queen Elizabeth Highway despite the time apart. The Maple Leafs have four meetings in their final 15 games with the basement-dwelling Sabres, which should be relatively good news for Leafs Nation.
Relatively speaking is certainly not guaranteed in a competitive sense…
Following a devastating 5-2 loss in the Stadium Series game, the Leafs were looking to bounce back and also exorcise a three-game losing streak in the process.
Mike Babcock habitually elected to shake up his forward lines once again, which notably saw the promotion of Kasperi Kapanen and the return of Matt Martin.
Following an 18-game stint as a healthy scratch, Matt Martin made his way back into the lineup for the first time since January 22nd—and definitely made his presence felt.
Marleau - Kadri - Marner
Hyman - Nylander - Brown
Van Riemsdyk - Bozak - Kapanen
Martin - Plekanec - Komarov
Without both Jack Eichel and Auston Matthews for their respective teams, the spotlight shifted towards a comparison of either franchise's rebuild—which has clearly favoured Toronto. Not to mention, KeyBank Arena consisted mostly of fans dawning blue and white.
For what it’s worth, the 30th place Sabres could end up with the undisputed number one overall draft selection, Rasmus Dahlin, with this year’s NHL draft lottery.
Despite a harsh reality, the Sabres jumped out to an unlikely 2-0 lead courtesy of goals from Sam Reinhart (16) and Jason Pominville (11), respectively.
Buffalo was on their way to maintaining a 2-0 advantage into the first intermission, however, the Maple Leafs were able to prevail in the final ten seconds of play.
William Nylander threw the puck on goal and produced a juicy rebound for Leo Komarov (6) to convert into a goal, successfully cutting Buffalo’s lead in half at the 19:52 mark.
As play resumed in the second frame, Leo Komarov contributed to the offence again and posted his second goal of the night. Nikita Zaitsev broke out of the zone and connected with Matt Martin before entering the offensive zone, where Martin and Komarov perfected a tic-tac-toe goal to even the score at 2-apiece.
The Sabres managed to restore their two-goal advantage with two goals in the span of 2:05 minutes and stunned the Toronto faithful who made the trip down to Buffalo.
Zemgus Girgensons potted his 7th goal of the season before Ryan O’Reilly also joined in on the action.
Ron Hainsey attempted to ring the puck around the boards but instead found a referee’s skate, before the puck redirected directly to Ryan O’Reilly for an involuntary assist. The 27-year-old received the puck in the slot and notched his 19th goal of the season to make it a 4-2 score.
Toronto entered Monday night with a 4-17-2 record when trailing after forty minutes.
Well, to make a short story shorter, that record didn’t improve. Johan Larsson (4) added another insurance marker for the Sabres—the lowest ranked offensive team in the league, and Buffalo somehow walked away with a 5-3 victory.
Mitch Marner (18) added a goal late in the period to pad his stats and soften the blowout.
Toronto will have a significant amount of time off before hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday, in a rematch of a 5-3 decision favouring Pittsburgh just two weeks ago. Puck drop is set at 7:00 p.m. on Hockey Night in Canada.
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Photo Credit: @MapleLeafs