Alex Tuch scored twice in the third period, including the game winner as the Sabres won a back-and-forth battle 6-4 tonight in Toronto. The Leafs had come back three times from one goal deficits on three goals from Austin Matthews. Aside from Tuch’s two, the Sabres got goals from Jordan Greenway, Jeff Skinner, Tage Thompson and JJ Peterka.
The Sabres had a few lineup changes for tonight’s game. With Dylan Cozens out day-to-day (perhaps related to his fight last night) and Mattias Samuelsson on IR (yikes!!), we had Victor Olofsson and Tyson Jost back in. The Sabres rolled with 7 defensemen with rookie Ryan Johnson making his NHL debut. Brandon Biro and Lukas Rousek were not in the lineup.
Joseph Woll vs. Devon Levi started in nets. This was the first game back from injury for Levi.
Jeff Skinner– Tage Thompson – Alec Tuch
Victor Olofsson – Casey Mittelstadt – JJ Peterka
Jordan Greenway – Tyson Jost –
Zemgus Girgensons – Peyton Krebs – Kyle Okposo
Rasmus Dahlin – Henri Jokiharju
Owen Power – Connor Clifton
Ryan Johnson – Erik Johnson
Much better start
The Sabres struggled in the opening minutes in the last couple of games against Philly. Tonight was much better. In fact, they had the first four shots on goal in the first three minutes of play.
Good penalty kill from the Sabres about five minutes into the game. Devon Levi had to be sharp against the Leafs’ top unit.
The Leafs opened the scoring at 12:05 with a goal by Mitch Marner. The Leafs pick-off a pass just inside their own blueline, and with a couple of quick passes, Marner got in behind Dahlin and was off to the races. He beat Levi high glove.
The Sabres got their first powerplay opportunity with a little over five minutes to go. And the Sabres evened up the game with the 2nd PP unit! JJ Peterka wristed it past Woll as Okposo screened the goalie. That’s something I’ve been advocating for… net-front presence. Peterka’s goal was scored at 16:13; Power and Olofsson with the assists.
With the Leafs on the PP at the end of the period, Levi robbed Austin Matthews to keep the game tied at 1-1.
Shots in the period were 13-12 Toronto.
Hello Ryan Johnson
The Sabres had an early 5-on-3 advantage and created a few scoring chances but couldn’t beat Woll. Tage Thompson had a couple of 90+ MPH one-timers but they came off of slow passes so Woll was able to get across in time.
But it was Thompson who scored the shorthanded goal to make it 2-1 Buffalo at 6:28. He stole the puck at the Leafs’ blueline and went in alone on Woll. His wrist shot trickled through Woll and barely over the line.
The Leafs tied the game on another PP opportunity at 11:22. Austin Matthews beat Levi from the slot after Toronto broke into the zone cleanly.
But as the goal was being announced, Ryan Johnson found Jeff Skinner with a great stretch pass that gave Skinner a path to the net. He blasted a slapshot from the circle at 11:56, beating Woll short-side high. It was Johnson’s first NHL point.
Shots in the second favored the Sabres 14-10.
Austin Matthews tied up the game just 17 seconds into the third period. Thompson couldn’t get the puck out of the zone and Marner won the battle with Jokiharju behind the net; he fed Matthews who beat Levi to the far side.
It didn’t take long before Jordan Greenway put the Sabres up again at 3:11. Greenway forechecked hard and got he puck down low to Peterka, who fed Casey Mittelstadt. His shot was stopped by Woll, but Greenway picked up the rebound.
Matthews completed his hattrick at 7:26 to tie the game again. The Leafs won the faceoff and the shot came in from the blueline and was double deflected off of Matthews’ and Clifton’s stick. Nothing for Levi to do on that.
The Sabres took the lead once again at 12:48 when Alex Tuch scored as he deflected a Rasmus Dahlin shot with his shoulder. That line had been applying a lot of pressure in the Toronto end, so while the goal was a bit lucky, it was well-deserved.
Toronto pulled Woll with about 1:30 to play, but Alex Tuch scored his second of the night at 18:54 to put the game away.
Shots in the third were 14-6 for the Sabres and 40-29 for the game.
- The Sabres needed a game like this tonight. They never stopped pressing in a seesaw battle of a game and their effort finally paid off. The reunited Thompson line was great, so was the Mittelstadt line once Peterka joined it.
- We didn’t see a lot of Ryan Johnson in his NHL debut (only 8:20 of ice time), but what we did see was very good. His stretch pass to Skinner was world-class and the kind of thing a coach like Granato will love. I think they went with 7 D tonight so they could ease Johnson into the lineup without putting too much pressure on him. I expect we’ll see him play ahead of Jacob Bryson while Mattias Samuelsson is on IR.
- Devon Levi was very good tonight, despite giving up four goals. He made some big stops when his team needed it, which is what you need from your goaltender. It’ll be Levi and UPL for a while, so let’s hope they can both continue their strong play.
- With Dylan Cozens out, Victor Olofsson got his chance to prove he belongs in the lineup. While he picked up his first point of the season on the powerplay in the first period, he only played 8:42 and was glued to the bench in the third period. Olofsson has an unreal shot, but the problem is that he is a defensive liability. He certainly appears to be in Granato’s doghouse. I’m sure if the opportunity to move him arises, GM Kevyn Adams will take it.
- Matthew Savoie’s “conditioning stint” in Rochester is now complete. He had 2 goals and 3 assists in 6 games. I expect we’ll see Savoie join the Sabres for a 9-game stint and either Rousek or Biro (or both) will be returned to Rochester.
- With the win tonight, the Sabres are now 6-6-0 and tied with the Leafs and Habs in the standings.
Catch up on all the Sabres results and upcoming schedule here.