Sabres Open Season Series Against Leafs With Win
BUFFALO — Ryan O’Reilly and Zemgus Girgensons scored 2:05 apart in the second period in the Buffalo Sabres’ 5-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, who lost their fourth straight on Monday night.
Sam Reinhart, Jason Pominville and Johan Larsson also scored for Buffalo. Rasmus Ristolainen had two assists on consecutive shots from the right point that were deflected in during the opening four minutes.
The Sabres improved to 7-5-2 in their last 14, a stretch in which the Eastern Conference’s last-place team continues playing havoc with playoff contenders. Buffalo has now defeated each of the Atlantic Division’s three top teams, including Boston twice, over the past three weeks.
Leo Komarov had two goals and Mitch Marner also scored for Toronto.
The Maple Leafs dropped to 0-2-2 in their past four to match their longest skid of the season.
Frederik Andersen stopped 19 shots in allowing five goals for the second consecutive outing after being yanked midway through a 5-2 loss to Washington in an outdoor game played at the U.S. Naval Academy on Saturday.
Andersen couldn’t be faulted on Buffalo’s first four goals, all of which were set up by fortunate bounces.
With the game tied at 2, Girgensons was credited with scoring the go-ahead goal with 6:30 left in the second period when Reinhart’s bad-angle shot deflected in off Girgensons’ skate.
The Sabres received yet another break in going up 4-2 when Toronto defenseman Ron Hainsey’s clearing attempt struck referee Kendrick Nicholson’s skate. The puck caromed directly to O’Reilly, who scored from the right circle.
Larsson then sealed the win by converting a rebound in front midway through the third period before Marner scored with 2:03 left.
Chad Johnson stopped 38 shots and improved to 5-1 in his past seven outings, a stretch in which the Sabres backup has allowed just 12 goals.
The Sabres continued their home dominance over Toronto, improving to 19-3-1 in their past 23 meetings at Buffalo.
This marked the first meeting of the season between the cross-border rivals. As in the past, a large “Go, Leafs, Go!”-chanting contingent of Toronto fans made the trip to help fill most of the arena in what was one of the largest crowds in months.
One of the more amusing moments came when television cameras captured an exchange between Ristolainen and Toronto’s Nazem Kadri, after the two were sent to the penalty box for fighting in the second period.
Ristolainen held up four fingers in telling Kadri that the teams play four more times.
Kadri responded by correcting Ristolainen, saying it’s only three more times because Monday’s game didn’t count.
NOTES: Maple Leafs LW Matt Martin had an assist while playing for the first time since a 4-2 loss to Colorado on Jan. 22. Martin had been a healthy scratch for 18 consecutive games. … Sabres C Jack Eichel began skating on his own over the weekend, though there’s no timetable for his potential return. Eichel missed his 11th straight game since spraining his right ankle in a 4-2 win at Boston on Feb. 10. … Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock on what his penalty killers need to do differently after going 0-for-2 against Washington on Saturday: “We’ve got to go to the meeting and then do what was said in the meeting. That would be a good start.”