1. Sabres outshoot Leafs by more than 2:1 ratio in first period, but Toronto gets only goal of frame thanks to Mitch Marner. The Leafs have had a tough go of it playing the Sabres in Buffalo in recent seasons, and in the beginning of Thursday's game against the host Sabres, Toronto found itself on its heels at times and was outshot 15-7 in the first 20 minutes. However, the Buds were the ones who held a 1-0 lead entering the first intermission.
Toronto earned that lead on the second goal of the season from first-year NHLer Mitch Marner, who picked up the puck deep in Buffalo's zone, used the end boards to pass it behind the net and to linemate Tyler Bozak, then circled back and converted a crisp feed from Bozak into the first goal of the game at the 4:08 mark of the first period. The goal was Marner's seventh point of the year in only his 11th career NHL game, but he wasn't done for the day Thursday.
Video: TOR@BUF: Marner beats Lehner for second of the game
2. Marner's second of the night doubles Leafs' lead early in second. Marner was a threat again in the second period and posted the second multi-point game of his burgeoning professional career when he drove to the net, took control of the puck within close range of Sabres goalie Robin Lehner, and knocked in his own rebound at the 1:50 mark to make it 2-0.
Of course, it's still early days and he'll have to play with consistency to earn top minutes, but the 19-year-old Marner is already looking like a seasoned, driven veteran with a full-rink compete range. His play reads and sense of anticipation are valuable components of his game that have set him apart at all levels at which he's played prior to this year, and it's looking like not much has changed in those regards.
3. Sabres score their first of the night shortly after Marner's second. Despite falling behind by two goals, Buffalo continued getting pucks at Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen, who turned away 15 of 16 Sabres shots in the second period. The lone shot Andersen couldn't stop came from the stick of Buffalo winger Marcus Foligno, who netted his second goal of the year four minutes and eight seconds after Marner's second of the night.
The Sabres added another 12 shots in the third period to finish with 43, and had more than a few chances to send the game to overtime, but Andersen stymied them time and again. That said, given that Toronto surrendered 46 shots to Edmonton in a 3-2 overtime Leafs win Tuesday, the Buds need to do a better job of limiting opportunities, rather than just trading them.
Video: TOR@BUF: Andersen sticks out pad to rob Girgensons
4. Andersen in a groove, holds off Buffalo's push-back. Marner was responsible for all of Toronto's offence Thursday, but the Leafs wouldn't have won the game were it not for the performance of Andersen, who made several spectacular stops over the course of the night and bailed out breakdowns in defensive coverage more than a few times.
Andersen has been rounding into top form in recent games, and this effort will only do good things for his confidence. He's more anchored between the pipes and is reacting instinctively in an improved manner. When things weren't going his way to start the season, he said he wanted to turn them around by simply putting in the work - and he's getting lots of work in Toronto's two-game win streak.
5. Rielly logs major minutes for Buds' defense corps. Blueliner Morgan Rielly logged 25:15 of ice time Thursday - the most he's played since he registered 25:45 in the season-opener against Ottawa Oct. 12 - and the four shots he had against the Sabres put him into a tie with Marner and centre Auston Matthews for the team lead in that category.
It's hard to believe Rielly is just three games away from playing in his 250th career NHL game, but indeed, this is the 22-year-old's fourth season and Leafs head coach Mike Babcock clearly values his calmness and swiftness, and the high ceiling that still exists for his game.