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Monster, Kulemin Help Leafs Blank Sabres

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs are starting to give themselves a little more breathing room in the Eastern Conference standings.

Jonas Gustavsson stopped all 32 shots he faced Tuesday to record his second shutout in three starts as Toronto beat the Buffalo Sabres 2-0.

The victory moved the Leafs eight points ahead of the struggling Sabres heading into Friday's rematch between the teams at First Niagara Center. It also gave them a three-point cushion over the ninth-place Winnipeg Jets.

Nikolai Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski had goals for Toronto (22-15-5), which won all four games on a homestand that started Jan. 3.

The Sabres saw their record fall to 18-19-5.

Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller has enjoyed a tremendous amount of his success against the Leafs during his career, but that's started to change in the past two seasons. Fans at the Air Canada Centre derisively chanted ``Milllller! Milllller!'' as he saw his record fall to 1-5 against Toronto in his last six starts.

A familiar problem plagued the Sabres and Miller once again on this night - a lack of scoring.

Toronto, meanwhile, got all of the offence it needed in the first period thanks in part to a tough start for Sabres forward Drew Stafford. He was all alone in front of the Leafs net with an early chance but couldn't lift the puck over Gustavsson's glove.

A few minutes later, Stafford inadvertently cleared the puck over the glass in his own end. On the resulting Leafs power play, Kulemin corralled the puck and slid it under Miller to open the scoring at 8:55.

The struggling Russian also played a key role in Toronto's second goal. He did a nice job to get the puck through to Grabovski prior to taking a bodycheck and his linemate went on to beat Miller with a well-placed backhand at 17:55.

It was the first two-point night since Oct. 30 for Kulemin, who had a career-best 30 goals and 57 assists last year but has struggled so far this season.

From there, the Leafs played a pretty patient game and didn't allow Buffalo back in the game. Gustavsson was solid when called on, particularly in the third period, and recorded his third career NHL shutout.

Kulemin put a punctuation on the evening by hammering Sabres forward Patrick Kaleta in the neutral zone with a little over 10 minutes to play.

It was only the sixth time all season where Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul were held without a point. The Leafs didn't even need their two best forwards on this night.

Notes: Kessel saw his goal streak end at four games and his points streak at eight games ... Sabres forward Derek Roy and defenceman Christian Ehrhoff remain on the sidelines with upper-body injuries ... Jake Gardiner and Jay Rosehill were healthy scratches for Toronto ... Announced attendance was 19,439.
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