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Offensive output not enough against Andersen, Leafs

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

When the Toronto Maple Leafs came into KeyBank Center on Thursday night, they entered ranking atop the League in shots per game and near the top in shot attempts. Yet it was Buffalo that put forth its best offensive output of the season, feeding the net with a season high 43-shots and 70 shot attempts. 

Sometimes it'd take a brick wall to stop that kind of barrage. All it took on Thursday was Frederik Andersen. The Toronto goalie was outstanding in his second-consecutive performance of 40 saves or more, this time stopping all but one of the 43 shots he faced in a 2-1 win for the Maple Leafs.

 "Give credit to him, he played really well," said Marcus Foligno, who scored Buffalo's only goal of the game in the second period. "He definitely was the reason they came out of here with two points."

Ryan O'Reilly said Thursday morning that the Sabres couldn't afford any casual moments against a young, skilled Toronto team. They certainly limited those moments, but Toronto was able to capitalize on two of the few mistakes the Sabres did make, both of which turned into goals for rookie Mitchell Marner.

Marner first tallied 4:08 into the contest when he rushed behind the defense to pick up a crossing pass from Tyler Bozak and scored from in-tight. He struck again early in the second period, this time stripping the puck from Foligno in the slot and scoring on a second-chance shot.

Sabres goalie Robin Lehner made 27 saves in the loss.

As he has at times already this season, Foligno responded to his misplay by scoring shortly after for the Sabres. After a strong forechecking shift from Foligno and his linemates, Brian Gionta was just barely able to keep the puck in at the blue line and pass it off to Johan Larsson. Gionta left the ice and was replaced by Sam Reinhart, who later took a shot that was tipped by Larsson at the net-front. Foligno scored his second goal of the season off the rebound.

Video: TOR@BUF: Foligno beats Andersen with backhander

"You get that puck in the slot, the tight area, you've just got to crash the net," Foligno said. "It was good to get that one back."

That was the only time the Sabres would solve Andersen all night. Just a few minutes after Foligno scored his goal, he found himself staring down an open cage after catching a puck off the end boards. He took a high shot and put it on goal, but Andersen dove back into the net to make a spectacular save.

That stop was one of three highlight-reel saves that Andersen made on the night. The first came late in an impressive opening period for the Sabres, when a good bounce off of a Toronto player led to Zemgus Girgensons getting the puck at the backdoor of the net. Andersen slid through the crease to rob Girgensons with his left pad and then stopped a put-back attempt.

The Sabres came hard in a 12-shot third period and had some of their best chances of the night after the Maple Leafs turned the puck over in the slot. Andersen made a pad save on Reinhart from in-tight, then another on a backhand from Tyler Ennis. Still, Ennis collected the rebound to take one more clean shot from the crease, only to see Andersen snag it with his glove.

Tweet from @BuffaloSabres: All Buffalo lately. Just need one to tie it up.

Ennis shrugged and looked toward the sky as he skated off the ice.

"There was such a scramble in front and I can't imagine he saw it," Ennis said. "It ended up in his glove. It would've been nice, if it goes in it's a tie game. I've just got to keep grinding."

The Sabres entered the game on a three-game winning streak and felt they continued to do most of the things that had been making them successful. They put pucks deep in the offensive zone, were strong on the forecheck, limited their mistakes and were consistent through 60 minutes. The one aspect of their game that O'Reilly said could have been better was their second-chance attempts, but even he was skeptical at Toronto's box-out tactics. 

"A lot of the times I thought it was interference," O'Reilly said. "It wasn't just a single push; it was kind of constant, just in your face, not even looking at the puck or anything. It's tough to play through it. It would've been nice to have a few more power plays but we've got to find a way to get to the net."

The Sabres did earn two power plays, both at the end of the second period, and generated seven shots but came up empty-handed. O'Reilly put the responsibility on himself for having to find the back of the net, but the feeling among the Sabres who spoke following the game was mutual: They played a strong game, but there are no moral victories for a team looking to contend.

"Give him credit, he had to make some huge saves for them," O'Reilly said of Andersen. "But there's always a way to find to break a goalie, and we didn't tonight."


More success on faceoffs

Part of the reason the Sabres were able to sustain possession for much of the game was O'Reilly's continued dominance in the faceoff circle. He entered the game having won 61 percent of his faceoffs, but won 75 percent (21-for-28) against Toronto.

As a team, the Sabres rank third in the NHL on faceoffs at 55.2 percent.


Up next 

The Sabres will practice on Friday and then hit the road for two games against Atlantic Division opponents, beginning on Saturday with a game in Ottawa against the Senators. It's the first of five meetings between Buffalo and Ottawa this season, three of which will be played this month.

Coverage on Saturday begins at 6:30 p.m. with Tops Sabres Gamenight on MSG-B, or you can listen live on WGR 550. The puck drops at 7 p.m.

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