Matthews lifts Leafs to win

Maple Leafs top Sabres 4-3 in OT

The Sault Star - - SPORTS - JOHN WAWROW

BUF­FALO, N.Y. — Aus­ton Matthews scored his sec­ond goal with three sec­onds on the clock in over­time, and the Toronto Maple Leafs matched their best start in 84 years with a 4-3 win over the Buf­falo Sabres on Tues­day night.

The Maple Leafs won their fifth straight game and im­proved to 20-8. The only other time in took them just 28 games to reach 20 wins was when they opened the 1934-35 sea­son at 20-6-2.

Kasperi Ka­pa­nen set up the de­ci­sive goal by skat­ing up the left wing and draw­ing two de­fend­ers be­fore drop­ping a pass to a trail­ing Matthews. Driving to the net, he got around Sabres for­ward Evan Ro­drigues and snapped a shot over goalie Li­nus Ull­mark’s left shoul­der.

Pa­trick Mar­leau scored with 5:13 re­main­ing in reg­u­la­tion to force over­time. Jake Gar­diner also scored and Mitchell Marner had an as­sist to give him 11 in five games. Fred­erik An­der­sen stopped 38 shots to win his fourth straight.

Jack Eichel scored twice for Buf­falo, which dropped to 0-2-2 since equal­ing the fran­chise record with a 10-game win­ning streak. Sam Rein­hart had a goal and as­sist, and de­fence­man Ras­mus Ris­to­lainen set up two for Buf­falo.

Ull­mark stopped 26 shots. Matthews also added an as­sist to give him five goals and seven points in three games since miss­ing 14 with a shoul­der in­jury.

Eichel scored twice in a lit­tle more than 10 min­utes dur­ing the third pe­riod to put Buf­falo ahead 3-2. The Sabres cap­tain tied the game by one-tim­ing Ris­to­lainen’s pass from the right point 2:39 into the pe­riod.

Eichel scored the go-ahead goal af­ter Toronto’s Nazem Kadri coughed up the puck in­side the Maple Leafs blue line. Rein­hart got his skate in front of Kadri’s weak pass and fed Eichel, who drove into the slot and snapped a shot in­side the right post with 7:03 left.

Mar­leau scored 1:50 later when Mor­gan Rielly’s shot from the left point went wide. The puck car­omed to Mar­leau, who came out from be­hind the net and stuffed it in­side the right post.

Matthews opened the scor­ing 8:33 into the sec­ond pe­riod on a fluke play. Ron Hain­sey’s shot from the right cir­cle struck Buf­falo for­ward Conor Sheary’s leg and bounced high into the air. Matthews was al­ready head­ing be­hind the net and jumped up over de­fence­man Nathan Beaulieu’s head, gloved the puck to his stick and wrapped it in in­side the left post.

Af­ter Rein­hart tied the game 5 1/2 min­utes later by tip­ping in Beaulieu’s shot from the point, the Maple Leafs re­gained the lead on an odd-man rush with 10 sec­onds left in the pe­riod.

Marner sped up left wing and spun around to make a back­handed pass into the crease. The puck went off the skate of Toronto’s Zach Hy­man and di­rectly to John Tavares, who im­me­di­ately fed the puck into the slot where Gar­diner flipped it into the open left side.

Though the Sabres are draw­ing larger crowds with each win, that didn’t drown out the “Go, Leafs, Go!” chants from Toronto fans who made the trip across the bor­der. A ma­jor­ity of peo­ple seated in the first seven rows im­me­di­ately to the right of the Sabres bench were wear­ing Maple Leafs jer­seys.

Be­fore the game, Toronto coach Mike Bab­cock com­mented on the Sabres’ im­prove­ment this sea­son by say­ing: “Pretty soon, Leaf fans won’t be able to buy tick­ets here be­cause Buf­falo fans will have bought them al­ready.”

Notes: Maple Leafs RW Wil­liam Ny­lan­der re­mained in Toronto where he skated on his own as he con­tin­ues con­di­tion­ing since re-sign­ing with the team on Satur­day. There re­mains no timetable for when Ny­lan­der will play his first game . ... Sabres RW Ja­son Pom­inville is day to day and missed his sec­ond game with an up­per­body in­jury . ... Sheary re­turned af­ter miss­ing four games with an up­per-body in­jury.

Up next

The Maple Leafs host the Detroit Red Wings on Thurs­day be­fore open­ing a five-game road trip.

JEF­FREY T. BARNES/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Toronto Maple Leafs for­ward Aus­ton Matthews car­ries the puck dur­ing the sec­ond pe­riod of an NHL hockey game against the Buf­falo Sabres, on Tues­day, in Buf­falo, N.Y.

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