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game recap

Maple Leafs score four in row to defeat Sabres

Auston Matthews breaks tie with 22nd goal of season for Toronto

by Dave McCarthy / NHL.com Correspondent

TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs scored three times in the first 9:45 of the second period and rallied to defeat the Buffalo Sabres 4-3 at Air Canada Centre on Tuesday.

Toronto (21-13-8), which trailed 2-0, won its third straight game.

"We've had leads and kind of given them up, so we obviously knew it was possible to come back," Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner said. "Two goals isn't a huge lead, but we obviously answered well in the second."

 

WATCH: All Sabres vs. Maple Leafs highlights

 

Buffalo (17-18-9) took a 1-0 lead when Kyle Okposo scored at 10:16 of the first period. He intercepted the puck at the top of the ring-wing circle as Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen tried to advance it. Okposo put it in while Andersen scrambled back into position.

Evander Kane one-timed a pass from Brian Gionta in the slot to put the Sabres ahead 2-0 with 33 seconds left.

The Maple Leafs took a 3-2 lead in the first half of the second period. Leo Komarov deflected a shot from Nazem Kadri at the top of the crease at 32 seconds to make it 2-1; Matt Martin made it 2-2 at 8:29 when he scored from a bad angle after his shot slipped between the right arm and chest protector of goalie Robin Lehner; and Auston Matthews scored his 22nd goal of the season 1:16 later to give Toronto the lead.

"Just the way we managed the game in the second period, I think the forwards need to do a better job of helping our defense get off the ice," Sabres forward Jack Eichel said. "It was just a couple funny bounces and they get the lead back. We came out and played pretty well. We even had some good spurts in the second period where we put some good pressure on them, but obviously didn't do enough to win."

Lehner allowed three goals on 16 shots before being pulled for Anders Nilsson after Matthews' goal. Nilsson made 15 saves.

"It's frustrating, it's frustrating for myself," Lehner said. "Sometimes you make mistakes; I think I've been pretty good this year of letting it go and keep going. There hasn't been many games this year where I've let in more than three, I think one or two. I didn't want to get out, but it is the coach's decision."

James van Riemsdyk gave Toronto a 4-2 lead at 13:04 of the third period on a power play. William Carrier made it 4-3 when he batted a waist-high pass from Zemgus Girgensons with 2:23 left.

Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly left the game after Carrier fell on his right leg 6:47 into the first period. Rielly returned for one shift but went back to the locker room. Coach Mike Babcock had no update on his status after the game.

 

Goal of the game

Maple Leafs forward Connor Brown created a turnover behind the Sabres net, resulting in a loose puck. Zach Hyman got it to Matthews in the slot, where he scored past Lehner high to the blocker side.

Video: BUF@TOR: Matthews snipes a beauty from the low slot

 

Save of the game

Andersen stopped Ryan O'Reilly on a partial breakaway at 9:01 of the second period to keep the score 2-2. Toronto took the lead 44 seconds later.

Video: BUF@TOR: Andersen denies O'Reilly at the doorstep

 

Highlight of the game

Brown collected a turnover at the Sabres blue line, toe-dragged the puck around a defenseman, and got off a shot from the slot, but Nilsson kicked out his right pad to keep Buffalo within one goal at 11:10 of the third period.

Video: BUF@TOR: Nilsson pads away Brown's nifty shot

 

Unsung performance of the game

Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner played a season-high 29:24. He was forced into extra duty after Rielly left the game.

 

They said it

"We've had lots of success this year with no injuries. Our medical staff has done a real nice job, but injuries wear you down, and then what happens when you get injured is you play fewer guys more and it usually leads to more. We've got to manage this well. I don't know if he (Morgan Rielly) is out a week, or 10 days, or a month, I don't have a clue." -- Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock

 

Need to know

Sabres forward Tyler Ennis was scratched for precautionary reasons. He returned Monday after missing 30 games with a groin injury and scored in a 4-1 win against the Dallas Stars. "It wasn't unexpected from our standpoint. It's just more precautionary with him coming back from his injury and not playing back-to-back games," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. … Matthews is third in the NHL in goals, behind Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins (27) and Jeff Carter of the Los Angeles Kings (23).

 

What's next

Sabres: Host the Detroit Red Wings on Friday (7 p.m. ET; MSG-B, FS-D, NHL.TV)

Maple Leafs: Host the New York Rangers on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET; TSN4, MSG, NHL.TV)

 

Video: Leafs erase early deficit, hang on for 4-3 win

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