Splitting the points with the Sabres over three games is far from a sign of promise headed into a tough December. Two of the Sabres’ 6 wins in 27 games have come against the Leafs. Thanks to Cameron for tonight’s Game in 10.
1 – The Leafs came out looking much better to start the game in Buffalo tonight. Granted, the bar wasn’t set high after their collapse in Pittsburgh, but they kept the Sabres off the shot clock for 11 minutes to open the game. However, even during this stretch, there were head scratching moments in the defensive zone. Decision making is really poor right now.
2 – Kessel put the Leafs on the board early. Gardiner made a nice chip up the boards and Bozak handed it off to Phil, who did what he does best, and sniped on Miller. Kessel showed some excellent patience moving in for the shot, waiting for Miller to drop and for something to open up.
3 – The Sabres picked up steam as the first period moved along. It’s becoming increasingly clear that very few of the Leafs defenders are capable of breaking out of the zone with any confidence. Fraser and Franson are looking shaky making reverse passes, and turning routine exits into heart-stopping moments. Gardiner is all over the ice and looking lost on numerous occasions. Ranger is handling the puck like it’s a grenade. It’s not pretty.
4 – The Leafs forwards were actually playing decently, though. Normally I like to point out the enormous gaps they create on the back-check, and their unwillingness to support the defenders down low in their own zone. Tonight they were making a better effort to get there. Everyone on the top line has a moment at some point in the game where they came all the way back and broke up a scoring play. The Kadri line did a good job cycling and getting some zone time.
5 – The second period saw a pretty big drop off in play. Reimer looked a bit rattled, and the defensive troubles started to intensify. It wasn’t helped by two Buffalo powerplays that both looked pretty good. Matt Moulson tallied for the Sabres at the tail end of the first effort after Smithson failed to clear the zone. The puck found its way to the crease and Reimer was down to make the save. As Fraser moved across the blue paint, his foot clipped Reimer, and pushed him right out of the net.
6 – A hard working shift from the Kulemin line put the Leafs back on top, but it didn’t do much to shift momentum. Within a few shifts the Sabres are back in the Leafs’ zone, exposing the defenders and making life difficult for Reimer. Eventually, Franson takes a boarding penalty (worth noting that the referees were not going to call this one, until Stafford sold it heavily, and they changed their minds). The Leafs killed it, but the momentum stayed with Buffalo.
7 – Luke Adam was left all alone in front of the Leafs net and the puck bounced to his stick for him to pot an easy goal. We roll into the third period evened up at two…
The Kessel line got things rolling with a good shift that ended with Bozak whiffing on an opportunity, but drawing an icing call. On the next shift, the Kadri line drew a penalty when Nazem took a high stick to the face in the corner. The Leafs got their first powerplay opportunity of the game. Not a lot of pressure generated, but they do manage an in-tight scoring chance with Kadri hitting the post. The pressure was actually better after the man advantage concluded and the Kulemin line started buzzing.
8 – The next ten minute segment of the third period was pretty even – a back and forth affair with maybe a slight edge to the Leafs. There weren’t really any outstanding chances for either side. Reimer continued to look uncomfortable and made some strange decisions, but ultimately those didn’t result in goals, or even chances. Kulemin seemed to be able to make something happen on every shift.
Also, credit where credit is due, the defense generally looked a lot more confident and less shaky in the third. The decisions were being made much quicker, and Ranger in particular broke up a couple plays quite adeptly.
9 – Despite all the criticism of Reimer, he had to make an amazing save with around seven minutes left in the third to prevent a regulation loss.
10 – In the end, Reimer’s save may have earned the Leafs a point, but it can’t make up for a final burst of bad decision making, and a terrible non-call from the officials. With under two minutes left in regulation Ranger took a dumb penalty, slashing and holding his man as he circled behind the net. However, on the ensuing kill, van Riemsdyk was hauled down on a breakaway with no call, and no penalty shot. Even Carlyle was livid.
The Sabres scored 35 seconds into overtime. Ehrhoff with a blast from the point. Game over. The Leafs fall to 6th in the Conference, and are tied with tomorrow night’s opponent in the Montreal Canadiens with identical 14-9-3 records.
|2:12:00||TOR||Phil Kessel (14) Snap shot - ASST: Tyler Bozak (5), Jake Gardiner (6)||1 - 0 TOR|
|7:57:00||BUF||PPG - Matt Moulson (10) Wrist shot - ASST: Ville Leino (4), Tyler Myers (5)||1 - 1 Tie|
|10:23:00||TOR||Nikolai Kulemin (2) Tip-in - ASST: Trevor Smith (4)||2 - 1 TOR|
|18:50:00||BUF||Luke Adam (1) Slapshot - ASST: Zemgus Girgensons (6), Christian Ehrhoff (5)||2 - 2 Tie|
|0:38:00||BUF||Christian Ehrhoff (2) Wrist shot - ASST: Tyler Myers (6), Ville Leino (5)||3 - 2 BUF|
|21||J. van Riemsdyk||L||0||0||0||1||2||3||0||1||0||0||100%||0:36:00||2:41:00||20:34:00|
|NO.||PLAYER||SAVES - SHOTS||SV%||PIM||TOI|
|34||J. Reimer (L)||26 - 29||0.897||0||60:27:00|