(BUFFALO, NY) - No matter how successful the Maple Leafs may be at any point during a season, playing in Buffalo continues to be a difficult task.
A close but losing effort against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and a winning streak preceded the Leafs 6-2 loss against the Sabres on Saturday night.
“We weren’t sharp,” said Stephane Robidas of the Leafs effort. “We did a lot of turnovers and we feed off their transition. They played harder than us. It’s pretty simple.”
Special teams had been a strength for the Leafs as of late. A bad start allowed Tyler Ennis to open the scoring on the power-play for Buffalo.
Less than three minutes later, Buffalo’s Zemgus Girgensons took advantage of a James Reimer gamble to play the puck. From that point forward, the Leafs were playing catch up.
“That seemed to really set the tone for the night,” said Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle. "I thought we did ok up until that point. We had some offensive zone time and some decent quality scoring chances. Once they scored that shorthanded goal, it seemed like we were on a different plane.”
“For some reason we got away from our structure and got away from what was making us successful,” added Leafs defenceman Cody Franson. “We got back to playing more run and gun which is not what our team does well.”
With the Leafs to trying mount a comeback, the Sabres continually had a response to any Toronto offence.
A difficult night for Reimer, who gave up all six Buffalo goals on 35 shots.
“I felt good to start the game, it just seemed like I couldn’t catch a break and the puck was just missing me,” Reimer said of his night.
It was a disappointment considering his performance in Ottawa six days ago.
Next comes the task of trying to shake off this performance. There have been a string of games similar to the Leafs effort in Buffalo, where it looks like they get away from what has worked well for them. A good performance like they had against the Bruins on Wednesday is erased.
“We didn’t play very well,” said Carlyle. “I’m very disappointed in the way we played. Very frustrated the way we played.”
Like they did after a 4-1 loss to the Bruins earlier this season, the team will try to shake this off going into a string of home games.
“We’ve been playing some very good hockey and I think for our team the bottom line is we have to move forward,” said captain Dion Phaneuf. “It’s no reason to sit in there and panic about it. We didn’t play well enough, hold our head high for next week. Tonight’s over, there’s nothing we can do about it, we move forward.”
The Buffalo Sabres are now 14-1-1 in their last 16 games against the Maple Leafs at First Niagara Center.
After solid power-play execution during the Leafs three-game winning streak, Toronto has gone 0-10 in the last two games.
Phil Kessel scored the Leafs other goal in this game, marking the first time Toronto has lost a game in regulation when he scores a goal this season.
The Sabres averaged 1.22 goals for going into this game. Buffalo also had a 30th ranked power-play at 5.4%. That number improved with Ennis’s game opening goal.
The curse of First Niagara lives on.