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Van Riemsdyk leads Maple Leafs past Sabres

by Joe Yerdon

TORONTO – James van Riemsdyk scored twice and James Reimer made 32 saves to lead the Toronto Maple Leafs to a 4-2 win against the Buffalo Sabres at Air Canada Centre on Saturday night.

Van Riemsdyk made the most of his return to playing the wing and defenseman Cody Franson assisted on both of his first-period goals. His first goal came 5:45 into the game, when he tipped Franson's shot from the blue line past Sabres goalie Jhonas Enroth (18 saves).

"I'm probably a little more comfortable playing [on the wing]," van Riemsdyk. "Maybe it allows me to do some different things as far as being in front of the net a little more often. That's a big part of my game, obviously. I'm just happy the team was able to get a win tonight."

The two hooked up again at 13:35 on the power play, when van Riemsdyk tipped in another Franson shot to make it 2-0. Van Riemsdyk's two goals were his eighth and ninth this season.

"Anytime you're struggling offensively, you've got to simplify it a bit and start getting to those dirty areas," van Riemsdyk said. "Tipping pucks, getting second whacks, and that sort of thing … I thought we did a decent job of that."

Van Riemsdyk's big night broke a five-game point drought that coincided with his move to center. Newly-acquired center Peter Holland played 11:43 while playing between van Riemsdyk and Phil Kessel.

"I thought [Holland] did OK," Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said of Holland, who was acquired from the Anaheim Ducks earlier Saturday. "It's hard when a young guy comes in. It's not like we hid him in the lineup. We put him in a position to play with Kessel and van Riemsdyk. That's what we believe in. We believe that if you acquire players or have young players, it wouldn't be right to put them in non-offensive situations."

The Maple Leafs got off to a better start than they did Friday night against the Sabres. They outshot the Sabres 10-6 in the first and dominated play.

Nikolai Kulemin extended the lead to 3-0 with his first goal of the season at 11:49 of the second period. Kulemin was all alone in the slot and Enroth had no chance to stop Kulemin's well-placed wrist shot.

"Tonight we started very well, we had a good second," Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf said. "I think the back-to-back kind of caught up to us a little bit. Our bench was a little bit shorter and we sat back and they came. It's a big win."

The Sabres didn't go quietly, however; Jamie McBain scored 2:15 into the third period to cut the lead to 3-1. The goal was McBain's second of the season. After being outshot in the first, the Sabres turned the game in their favor and outshot the Maple Leafs 29-12 in the final two periods.

"The first period, we were terrible," Sabres forward John Scott said. "We were flat. We didn't have any energy. Ted [Nolan] came in and told us and said, 'You guys are garbage.' "

Sabres forward Tyler Ennis capitalized with his third goal of the season via the power play at 6:11 of the third period to cut the lead to 3-2, but the Sabres wouldn't get the equalizer.

"There's no easy teams, there's no easy games and there's, honestly, usually no easy periods," Reimer said. "Obviously, they had nothing to lose and they were coming out hard. They probably didn't have the best first period and they had a lot of legs in the third and, honestly, you're kind of expecting that. You've just got to stand in there and try to hold the fort as long as possible and hope you hold them off."

With 2:46 to play in the third, Buffalo forward Ville Leino took a tripping penalty that led to Mason Raymond's power-play goal at 18:56, his seventh goal of the season.

"Now you find out reasons why the record is the way it is," Sabres coach Ted Nolan said.

The win snapped the Maple Leafs' three-game losing skid and stopped the Sabres' two-game winning streak.

"Both teams knew how big the games were this weekend," Phaneuf said. "For the most part, both groups were pretty much focused on the two points and playing as solid as we could. Obviously, we didn't like the outcome [Friday] night."

Maple Leafs defenseman Mark Fraser played 3:54 and left during the first period with a lower-body injury.

"I don't think it'll be something that's weeks or whatever, I hope," Carlyle said. "It's day-to-day right now. The assessment will be when he comes back [Sunday]."

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