Wednesday evening in Toronto saw the Buffalo Sabres visit the Toronto Maple Leafs in their first meeting since the Leafs left Buffalo with a 5-4 win on November 13.
Toronto was riding a three game win streak, while the Sabres were coming in with six straight losses.
Petr Mrazek had the start in net for the Leafs, while Craig Anderson played opposite him. Mrazek would be starting in back to back games for the first time with Toronto, while Anderson was sitting on 297 wins in his career.
Toronto forward Alexander Kerfoot took a penalty just a minute and a half into the game which sent Buffalo to the power play, which the Sabres took full advantage of. 24 year old defenceman Jacob Bryson threw on a hard wrist shot from the blueline, and with Leafs defenceman Morgan Reilly streaking in front of the Leafs net, the puck deflected off of his skate and into the Leafs net.
Bryson, the London O.N, native scored his first goal of the season.
Goals from the blueline were a theme in the first period as Rasmus Sandin scored his fourth goal of the season after a nifty passing play between the Leafs top line of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and Michael Bunting.
Sandin now has goals in back to back games and is up to 15 points on the season.
That’s about all the fun the Leafs, and especially Sandin had for the rest of the game.
Sabres forward Victor Olafsson wrestled Sandin out of his way for the go-ahead goal midway through the second period.
With just over a minute to go left in the frame, Sandin found a bouncing puck in his skates in front of the Leaf net and some quick work by Sabres forward Jeff Skinner poked the puck free for a wide-open Tage Thompson for his 23rd goal of the season.
In a season full of positives and few negatives for the young defenceman Sandin, this was one of his lowest performances.
Things only went from bad to worse for the Swede in the third period as an errant pass from his defence partner Rielly bounced off his stick which sent a streaking Jeff Skinner all alone on a breakaway which he converted on for his 21st of the season.
Skinner’s last two seasons in Buffalo have been tough since netting 40 goals in 2018-19, with his goal totals at 14 two seasons ago and seven last season, with his goal against the Leafs he has matched his total goal output for the Sabres from the past two seasons combined, as he is looking to become a helpful tool to this current Sabres rebuild.
Kyle Okposo netted midway through the third period to put the score at 5-1 for the Sabres and that would be how the game finished as 40 year old Craig Anderson picks up career win 298, putting him level for 39th all time with Braden Holtby, and two wins off of career win 300, something to keep an eye on in future Sabres games.
As the game was winding down, Maple Leafs fans were not all too pleased with the performance the team had on display, and they made it abundantly clear as the now full capacity Scotiabank Arena crowd showered down a chorus of boos.
After the game, Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe let loose on his team saying that they were “Terrible from start to finish”, according to Joshua Kloke from The Athletic.
Keefe also said, “In terms with how we played with the puck, we were careless and didn’t have much happening”, he also said “Offensively, we were abysmal. All four lines”
Leafs captain John Tavares’ goal drought has now extended to 14 games, his longest since his rookie season with the New York Islanders, while the NHL’s First Star for the month of February, Mitch Marner, extended his point streak to five games with an assist on the Leafs only goal of the game.
Buffalo will now head home for the next four games, as they kick off with a game against the Wild on Friday evening, while the Leafs will look to get back into the wins column when the Vancouver Canucks come to visit on Saturday evening.
Both teams will meet each other again in 10 days time when they head to Tim Horton’s Field in Hamilton to play in the Heritage Classic outdoor game.