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Leafs win second straight with 5-3 victory over Sabres

by Adam Proteau Proteautype / MapleLeafs.com

The Maple Leafs scored four straight in the second to help capture a 5-3 Battle of the QEW victory over the Sabres.

LEAFS CAN'T PRODUCE OFFENCE IN FIRST PERIOD, BUT COME ROARING BACK WITH FOUR-GOAL SECOND FRAME

For the fifth game in a row, the Maple Leafs failed to generate any offence in the first period; and in Monday's tilt against the Atlantic Division-rival Sabres, they were outshot 16-6 in the opening frame and trailed Buffalo 1-0 at the first intermission.

But then - as they did Saturday in beating Montreal 6-3 - the Buds came roaring back in the second period, and took control of the contest with four goals in a 9:19 span. First to score was centre John Tavares, who tipped home a shot from the blueline by D-man Jake Muzzin at 3:48 to tie the score and record his team-leading 35th goal of the season:

Video: BUF@TOR: Tavares deflects puck past Hutton

One minute and thirty-six seconds after Tavares scored, centre Auston Matthews continued his torrid scoring streak by getting his own rebound in front of Sabres goalie Carter Hutton and blasting it into the net for his 30th goal of the year and a 2-1 Leafs lead:

Video: BUF@TOR: Matthews beats Hutton for his 30th goal

The offence kept coming for Toronto, with centre Frederik Gauthier notching his third goal of the season by backhanding the puck past Hutton at 5:52 of the second (only 28 seconds after Matthews' goal) and chasing Hutton from the net in favor of Linus Ullmark:

Video: BUF@TOR: Gauthier sends home sweet backhand shot

Finally, the Leafs scored their last goal of the period at the 13:07 mark when Gauthier sprung winger Tyler Ennis on a breakaway, and Ennis beat Ullmark for his ninth goal of the year and a 4-1 Toronto lead:

Video: BUF@TOR: Ennis beats Ullmark on the breakaway

SABRES REFUSE TO ROLL OVER, CUT LEAFS' LEAD TO SINGLE GOAL EARLY IN THIRD

The Leafs were firmly in control by that point in the game, but the Sabres weren't about to roll over and hand the home team two points: Buffalo's Sam Reinhart scored on a 5-on-3 power play to cut Toronto's lead to 4-2 at 17:25 of the second, and at the nine-second mark of the third, Eichel recorded his second goal of the evening to pull the Sabres within a single goal of tying it up again.

The Leafs needed to play the final 20 minutes of action proactively, the way they did in the second period, and avoid looking static and reactive, the way they did in the first frame.

SABRES PRESS, BUT ANDERSEN HOLDS FORT, KAPANEN ADDS INSURANCE AS LEAFS WIN SECOND STRAIGHT

The Leafs outshot Buffalo 17-10 in the second, but the Sabres competed hard in the third, and Toronto goaltender Frederik Andersen had to be sharp to keep the Buds in the lead, especially after a late Sabres man advantage gave defenceman Rasmus Dahlin an excellent scoring chance with 2:43 left. Andersen stymied Dahlin, and on a subsequent play, winger Kasperi Kapanen got a shorthanded breakaway and scored his 19th goal of the season with 2:18 left to give Toronto breathing room:

Video: BUF@TOR: Kapanen pads lead with shorthanded goal

Andersen stopped 31 of 34 Buffalo shots in total, and the Leafs won their second straight game. Toronto will have a day off Tuesday before hosting the Edmonton Oilers the following day. And though Edmonton has struggled this season, star centre Connor McDavid will be back from a two-game suspension and will be as dangerous as ever. Toronto will need to play smart, disciplined hockey to extend their win streak to three games.

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