TORONTO _ Nazem Kadri
's latest audition with the Toronto Maple Leafs is off to a roaring start.
The winger snapped the winning goal past Ryan Miller's glove in the third period as the Maple Leafs beat the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 on Thursday night.
It came one day after Kadri was recalled following a 22-game stint in the American Hockey League. The former first round pick looked poised with the puck all night long and scored the winner at 5:52 of the third period after taking a nice drop pass from Clarke MacArthur
. David Steckel
and Phil Kessel
also had goals while James Reimer
made 40 saves for the Maple Leafs (16-13-4), who moved up to sixth spot in the tight Eastern Conference standings.
Jason Pominville and Derek Roy replied for Buffalo (16-14-3).
The first period belonged to Miller, who had his play questioned by owner Terry Pegula following a blowout loss in Pittsburgh over the weekend.
With the Leafs off to a fast start, Miller turned away Kessel at the side of the goal before getting his shoulder on a Matt Frattin
one-timer. Toronto was unable to solve him with any of its 12 first-period shots.
The momentum swung early in the second period as Toronto took four straight penalties, including a delay of game call to Tyler Bozak
that left the team two men short for 67 seconds. Reimer stood tall through a barrage of shots, only allowing a goal to Pominville at 11:49 when the Sabres captain saw his shot deflect off Leafs defenceman Luke Schenn
The Leafs responded with a goal from their little-used fourth line. Playing just their second shift of the period, Steckel dribbled a shot past Miller from the top of the crease at 15:52.
That brought the sellout crowd to life, with fans derisively chanting: ``Millller! Millller!'' when Kessel made it 2-1 Leafs just over a minute later. The flashy winger scored his 20th of the season after taking a nice pass from linemate Joffrey Lupul
The lead was short-lived as Roy tied it early in the third period. He grabbed the puck on a turnover at the Leafs blue-line and beat Reimer to the glove side at 1:29.
Kadri's winning goal was an important one for a Leafs team that has been sliding of late. They won for just the third time in 10 games and gained valuable points on a division rival that they'll likely be battling for a playoff spot down the stretch.
Buffalo is also reeling as it heads into the Christmas break. The banged-up team can use the time off as leading scorer Tomas Vanek left in the third period, making it seven regulars out of the lineup.
The Leafs start their holiday respite following Friday's game in Long Island.
Notes: Fans booed an in-game promo featuring Canadian pop phenom Justin Bieber, who skated with the Leafs on Wednesday ... Kessel has 20 or more goals in four straight seasons ... Leafs forward Joey Crabb
appeared in his 100th career NHL game ... Patrick Kaleta returned to Buffalo's lineup after missing 12 of the last 13 games with a groin injury ... Toronto is 11-0-0 when leading after two periods ... Announced attendance was 19,473.