Alex Tuch made his return to the Sabres lineup and was the difference-maker, scoring twice in the third period to lead the Buffalo Sabres to a 4-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Tuch had missed the previous eight games with an ankle injury.
The Sabres scored three goals in the third period after trailing 2-1 through two periods. Dylan Cozens and Jack Quinn had the other Buffalo goals.
This was a much-needed win for the Sabres, who had lost their last four games. With the two points, Buffalo moves to within five points of the idle New York Islanders with two games in hand. Here’s how things stand in the race for the final playoff spot:
Don Granato granted the wish of many online fans and benched Victor Olofsson for tonight’s game. With Tuch’s return, Jordan Greenway took Olofsson’s usual spot on the Jost line.
Sleepy first period
It was a very close checking start to the game. Through the first eight minutes, the Leafs had the only scoring chances and had a 4-0 shot advantage.
The Leafs pressured, but Craig Anderson came up with a few nice stops.
As they said on the Sportsnet broadcast, it was kind of a sleepy period, especially for the Sabres. They played well defensively but generated nothing in the offensive zone.
Shots in the first were 12-3 in favor of Toronto.
Solid second for Buffalo
The Leafs opened the scoring on a goal from Austin Matthews at 1:11. Anderson stopped the initial 2-on-1 shot by Mitch Marner, but the puck ping-ponged off of Kerfoot’s skate right to Matthews, who adeptly tipped it between Anderson and Rasmus Dahlin.
Three minutes later at 4:13, Calle Jarnkrok made it 2-0 on a shot from the high slot that beat Anderson under his right pad.
After the Leafs second goal, the tables turned and the Sabres were suddenly the dominant team.
Jack Quinn cut the lead in half at 14:58 with some nice hand-eye coordination. He batted the puck in mid-air after the initial stop by Matt Murray. The play came just seconds after Quinn tried to pass on a wide-open opportunity in front of the net. Peterka and Power picked up the assists on the play.
Shots in the period were 16-3 for Buffalo and stood at 19-15 Sabres after 40 minutes.
Tuch in the third
The Sabres kept the pressure on early in the third and tied up the game at 3:39 on a 29th of the season by Alex Tuch. He roofed a wrister from in close off of a beautiful backhand pass from Tage Thompson.
Dylan Cozens put the Sabres in front for the first time on the night at 9:39. Cozens deflected a Riley Stillman shot from the blueline and picked up his own rebound for his 26th of the season. Both Tuch and Cozens roofed their shots on Murray, who was down on both goals.
At 11:20, it was Alex Tuch time again as he got another one on the powerplay to put the Sabres up by two. Tuch one-timed a pass from below the goal line from Jeff Skinner. The shot beat Murray on the stick side. It was Tuch’s 30th of the season.
Toronto almost pulled within one when Stillman was handcuffed by a pass from Lyubushkin at the Toronto blueline. The Leafs came in on a 2-on-0, but Anderson came up with the big stop.
The Leafs pulled their goalie with 3:37 to go. William Nylander made it 4-3 with 1:02 left. He got around Dahlin with one hand on his stick and then beat Anderson with a great shot to the far side.
The Sabres held on the rest of the way. Shots were 13-9 Toronto in the third period and 29-28 Buffalo for the game.
The was a really solid effort from this Sabres team. They were the better team in the final 40 minutes tonight. While the first period was a little rough, the Sabres offense took over in the second and third. Throughout the game, they were solid defensively except for a few breakdowns.
It was a rough night for Rasmus Dahlin, who was listed as day-to-day after Saturday’s loss to the Rangers. He was a -3 and you could see the frustration on his face after each of the Toronto goals. He only played 21:18 tonight, including 3:30 on the powerplay. Coach Granato leaned on the Owen Power-Henri Jokiharju duo; they played 26:31 and 27:00 minutes respectively and were both +2.
The return of Alex Tuch was a huge boost for the Buffalo offense. He is having a fantastic season and you can tell that he is one of the emotional leaders on this team. His presence was felt.
I thought Jordan Greenway played well on the line with Jost and Mittelstadt. I’d keep things as they are in the next game.
I was a bit surprised they started Craig Anderson tonight; I expected we’d see Luukkonen. I guess UPL will get the game in Washington. Anderson played well, coming up with clutch saves when the team needed them.
Next Sabres game is Wednesday in Washington against the Capitals.
Catch up on all the Sabres scores for the 2022-23 season.