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game recap

Nylander, Maple Leafs handle Sabres

Toronto forward scores third goal; Buffalo without Eichel

by Mike Brophy / Correspondent

Nylander's 3rd goal of season

BUF@TOR: Nylander's wrist shot beats Johnson

3/19/16: Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau finds William Nylander who fires one past Chad Johnson to even the score at 1 in the 2nd period

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TORONTO -- William Nylander is starting to feel quite comfortable in his NHL surroundings.

The 19-year-old center scored a goal and had an assist for the Toronto Maple Leafs in a 4-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres at Air Canada Centre on Saturday.

"I think it's coming every game," Nylander said. "You start to find areas of the ice where you can make certain plays. It's coming and it's getting there."

Toronto coach Mike Babcock has said he'd prefer to play Nylander on the wing at this stage of his career because the center position is harder to learn, but injuries to Maple Leafs centers have forced Nylander into the middle. Nylander was picked eighth in the 2014 NHL Draft.

Video: BUF@TOR: Marincin goes top shelf for first goal

"He's getting more comfortable for sure, and at home we control matchups, so that's a better situation for him," Babcock said. "I thought he was good tonight. We were planning on playing him against [Jack] Eichel, but he didn't play (Eichel was scratched with the flu). You have to play against really good players if you are a good player and you have to be able to defend and produce against them. That's the challenge for him."

Nylander was leading the American Hockey League in scoring before he got a concussion playing for Sweden at the World Junior Championship. In 11 games with the Maple Leafs, Nylander has three goals and four points.

"You try to keep the same style of play, but small adjustments have to be made," Nylander said. "I am working on that every day. Most of it is, you are playing against smarter and more skilled guys so you have to be a little more focused on defense."

Toronto (25-35-11) is 2-1-0 during its six-game homestand and hosts the Calgary Flames on Monday.

Video: BUF@TOR: Michalek scores first goal as a Maple Leaf

Buffalo (29-34-10) defeated the Ottawa Senators 3-1 at home Friday and won two of its previous three games.

Eichel, who missed his first game of his rookie season, is second on the Sabres with 22 goals and 49 points in 72 games.

"Obviously it's a big void for us, but that's not the reason why we lost tonight," Buffalo captain Brian Gionta said.

Gionta said the Sabres struggled after taking a 1-0 lead.

Video: BUF@TOR: Gionta beats Sparks with snap shot

"We couldn't really create anything," Gionta said. "We weren't very good with our execution. We didn't complete many passes and we turned the puck over too often. They are a team that thrives on the rush, using their transition and speed. They have a lot of speed and defensemen that join the rush. We didn't look like a team that had much energy."

The Sabres scored 4:31 into the first period when Toronto defenseman Rinat Valiev gave away the puck to Buffalo forward Marcus Foligno, who relayed it to right wing Gionta. From a sharp angle, Gionta shot through a crowd and caught the far side of the net behind goaltender Garret Sparks. It was Gionta's 10th goal.

The Maple Leafs outshot the Sabres 11-3 in the first period. Toronto scored 14:55 into the second period when Nylander struck. Four seconds after Buffalo killed a hooking penalty to Rasmus Ristolainen, Nylander got the puck in front of the net and shot past goalie Chad Johnson high to the stick side to make it 1-1.

The Maple Leafs took a 2-1 lead at 6:56 at 4-on-4. With Foligno and Toronto's Nazem Kadri off for roughing, Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner drove to the net and took a shot that Johnson stopped. The rebound went directly to Maple Leafs defenseman Connor Carrick, who shot past Johnson for his second goal.

Video: BUF@TOR: Sparks stretches his leg to block shot

Defenseman Martin Marincin moved up on the play and took a perfect pass from PA Parenteau before shooting high under the crossbar behind Johnson for his first goal of the season to make it 3-1 at 15:32. It was Marincin's second goal of his 138-game NHL career.

Milan Michalek made a nifty move to get past Buffalo defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo and scored his seventh goal of the season. It was Michalek's first goal as a member of the Maple Leafs since being traded by the Ottawa Senators as part of the deal that included defenseman Dion Phaneuf.

Frederik Gauthier, Toronto's first pick (No. 21) in the 2013 NHL Draft, made his NHL debut and played 11:35 in 17 shifts. He was minus-1.

"I was excited; it was great," said the 6-foot-5, 215-pound center. "I tried to enjoy the game and it was great that we won the game."

Babcock said, "I thought he was good. He was smart and doesn't get himself in trouble. He skates good enough. He's going to play a long time in the NHL. He needs to work on getting quicker. Part of that is just understanding when to go quicker and when not to. For him to be real effective, he has to be an elite penalty-killer and dominant faceoff man."

Video: Maple Leafs score four unanswered goals in win

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