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game recap

Maple Leafs lose, give up ground in Atlantic

Lead for third place down to one point after falling to Sabres

by Joe Yerdon / Correspondent

BUFFALO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs' lead for third place in the Atlantic Division is down to one point after they lost to the Buffalo Sabres 5-2 at KeyBank Center on Saturday.

Toronto (35-24-15) had won three in a row. The Boston Bruins trail them by one point after defeating the New York Islanders 2-1. The Maple Leafs have one game in hand.

"We weren't very good," Toronto coach Mike Babcock said. "For whatever reason, they were quicker, they were better, they were hungrier. Obviously coming into the game I thought we had more to play for than they did. But pride is a wonderful thing, and if you get your group to dig in like they did tonight, they look good and we didn't. So good for them, and obviously we've got to fix whatever. We weren't good enough. Period."


WATCH: All Maple Leafs vs. Sabres highlights


Jack Eichel scored twice for Buffalo (31-32-12), which is 10 points behind the Bruins for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference. The Sabres are 18-2-1 in their past 21 home games against the Maple Leafs.

"We were able to capitalize on our power play," Eichel said. "It's nice to see we also shut them down in the third and stuck with our game plan; a good 60-minute effort."

Video: TOR@BUF: O'Reilly, Ennis connect for nifty goal

Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews scored his NHL-rookie-leading 34th goal to make it 2-2 at 2:22 of the second period.

Eichel gave the Sabres a 3-2 lead 25 seconds later with a power-play goal. His shot went past Maple Leafs goalie Curtis McElhinney after a pass from Dmitry Kulikov. McElhinney replaced starter Frederik Andersen (upper body) to start the period.

"Obviously the other team's doctor thought he should come out of the game, so he came out of the game," Babcock said. "So once our doctor has seen him [Sunday] then I'll have a better handle on what's going on and I'll be able to tell you."

Eichel helped set up Kulikov's second goal of the season, also on the power play, that made it 4-2 at 5:59 of the second. Eichel's second goal, 23rd of the season, made it 5-2 at 13:12 when he beat McElhinney through a screen by Marcus Foligno.

"Great to see [Kulikov] do that," Eichel said. "He makes a great play to me and puts it in my wheelhouse for a goal and then he lets a laser go. We know the type of player that he can be and the skill that he has. That's shot's a real weapon. He did a great job distributing the puck tonight."

Video: TOR@BUF: Kulikov scores PPG in 500th NHL game

Ryan O'Reilly gave the Sabres a 1-0 lead at 7:05 of the first period. After a cross-crease pass from Tyler Ennis, O'Reilly tapped the puck past Andersen for his 18th goal. 

Connor Brown made it 1-1 at 9:30. He picked up a rebound of a shot by Leo Komarov and shot it past Robin Lehner for his 18th goal. Evander Kane gave the Sabres a 2-1 lead 15 seconds later with his 26th goal. 

Lehner made 32 saves, Andersen made 14, and McElhinney made 19.


Goal of the game

Eichel's second goal gave him his third point. He has 53 points in 54 games this season after he missed the first 21 with an ankle injury.

Video: TOR@BUF: Eichel wires home his second of the game


Save of the game

Lehner stopped Mitchell Marner on a 2-on-1 at 11:38 of the second period.

"They came in fast, I kind of read that he just came around," Lehner said. "I kind of prepared for him to pass it over there and I was happy I got it with my pad."


Highlight of the game

Eichel's first goal was the game-winner after a setup from Kulikov. 

"It's fun to score and it's fun to get points," said Kulikov, who has two goals and two assists in 40 games.

Video: TOR@BUF: Eichel nets PPG with rocket from the circle


Unsung performance of the game

The Maple Leafs power play, which led the NHL, went 0-for-3. Sabres defenseman Zach Bogosian played 3:04 of his 21:24 on the penalty kill and had three blocked shots.


They said it

"It was just fun. There was a lot of energy in the rink right from the start, a lot of emotion, and those are fun games. We haven't had a lot of those games in a while. I think we really felt that energy. I think our fans were really loud and gave us a boost. I think we played with a lot of jump, a lot of energy all game." -- Sabres forward Tyler Ennis


Need to know

Matthews tied the Maple Leafs rookie record for goals held by Wendel Clark (1985-86). … Maple Leafs forward William Nylander extended his point streak to 11 games (four goals, nine assists) with an assist on Matthews' goal. It is one game behind the NHL season high (Mikael Granlund, Minnesota Wild). Eichel also had an 11-game streak this season. … Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri played his 400th NHL game. … Kulikov played his 500th NHL game.

Video: TOR@BUF: Matthews buries a wicked wrister up close


What's next

Maple Leafs: Host the Florida Panthers on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET; TSN4, FS-F, NHL.TV)

Sabres: Host the Florida Panthers on Monday (7 p.m. ET; MSG-B, FS-F, NHL.TV)


Video: Eichel, Ennis push Sabres past Maple Leafs, 5-2

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