TORONTO – They weren't wearing masks, but the Toronto Maple Leafs looked like anything but a team that had just undergone a tremendous fire sale at the deadline when they jumped out to a 3-1 lead against the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night.
They would've gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for those meddling kids.
Buffalo's under-25 players fueled a third-period comeback that ended with the Sabres' first shootout victory since October by a score 4-3. Mark Pysyk, Jack Eichel and Evander Kane each scored in regulation for Buffalo while Sam Reinhart scored the only goal in the shootout.
"We needed it," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "Our whole team was not real solid tonight with the puck and a step behind their speed, a step behind their skill tonight. We salvaged it by coming out and getting those goals and those guys stepping up the way they need to for us."
The Sabres allowed a quick goal for the second straight game when Leo Komarov opened the scoring on a 2-on-1 rush for the Maple Leafs just 25 seconds into the contest. Brad Boyes banked a power-play goal in off the skate of Jake McCabe later in the period to emerge from the first with a 2-0 lead.
Pysyk scored his first goal of the season to cut the deficit in the second, tapping in his own rebound after a feed to the slot from Kane. But Buffalo allowed Zach Hyman to cut in behind the defense and score on a rebound to regain the two-goal edge for Toronto with just 18.2 seconds remaining in the period.
The trio of Eichel, Reinhart and Kane brought the Sabres back in the third. Eichel scored coming out of the penalty box 7:28 into the period and then Reinhart and Kane connected for the game-tying goal 3:13 later.
Reinhart stripped the puck from Toronto's Morgan Rielly near the net and fed it across to a wide-open Kane, who tapped it into a wide-open cage.
"It just kind of found my tape," Reinhart said. "Obviously Kaner put himself in good position to get open and make it an easy play for me."
After both teams exchanged chances in the overtime period – Eichel shot a potential game-winner from the slot that rung off the post – Reinhart scored on the Sabres second shot in the shootout. Chad Johnson, who made 30 saves for his 15th win – stopped two attempts and the third went wide.
The Sabres were 0-6 in shootouts since winning their first of the season, which also came against the Maple Leafs on Oct. 21. Reinhart's goal was a bit vindicating for the rookie, who nearly scored a shootout goal against Minnesota on Saturday but saw his shot deflect off of the post.
"Yeah, it was the exact thing," Reinhart said. "It was nice to see it go in."
Nazem Kadri might have made a mistake when he mixed it up with Eichel near the Sabres bench in the third period. Both players went to the box – Kadri for cross-checking and Eichel for roughing – but it was Eichel who raced out and scored a goal immediately upon the penalty's conclusion.
"A little riled up," Eichel said of how he felt coming out of the box. "I thought I needed to get a little more engaged, you know Kadri plays a tough game so we were going at it a bit there but I think that's part of hockey."
The play began with Cal O'Reilly winning a battle along the wall. He got the puck to Matt Moulson, who tapped it into the slot where an oncoming Eichel jetted in and fired a wrister for his third goal in as many games and the 20th of his rookie season.
Eichel was particularly happy that Moulson was able to earn the point on the play.
"Puck came right to him and it shows his hockey IQ, his hockey sense," Eichel said. "He just leaves it for me in a great area where I can just touch it into the net, and it's nice that you score your 20th with the guy who lets you live in his house assisting on it."
As for the beef with Kadri, it didn't end there. Kadri wound up in the box again for tripping Eichel in overtime and again later when Zach Bogosian shoved him into the boards that started a scrum resulting in roughing penalties to Kadri, Bogosian, Kane and Leo Komarov.
"It's a really good feeling," Eichel said. "We have a really good group in this room and everyone has each other's back, that's what's important."
By scoring his 20th goal 131 days after his 19th birthday, Eichel became the youngest Sabre ever to score 20 in a season. Pierre Turgeon, the previous record holder, was nine days older when he scored his 20th on Jan. 15, 1989 according to Elias Sports Bureau.
COACH REED IN THE HOUSE
In true One Buffalo spirit, the Sabres had a special guest cross the border to watch their game against the Maple Leafs. Ed Reed, the former All-Pro Safety who was recently hired as an assistant defensive backs coach for the Buffalo Bills, continued to embrace his new home by making the trip.
The Sabres will cross the border back to Buffalo, where they host the New York Rangers on Tuesday night. It will be the second game between the two teams; the Rangers took the first meeting at Madison Square Garden by a score of 6-3 in January.
Coverage on Tuesday begins at 6:30 p.m. with Tops Sabres Gamenight on MSG-B and Bell TV. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550.