Something to remember as teams rapidly tailspin their way into the bottom of the standings? The thirtieth place team isn’t as likely to win the draft lottery as they were in previous years. In fact, you only have a one in five shot to end up with Connor McDavid, which realistically means that the Buffalo Sabres are tanking for Jack Eichel. The Leafs are trying their best to catch down to them, however, and had a chance to give the Sabres a big two points tonight. The end result? Well, they gave them one, but unfortunately for the tank, kept a pair for themselves as well.
The Sabres struck first in this one, taking advantage of Dion Phaneuf, who misplayed the puck in comical fashion and allowed Buffalo to get a few cracks at it. In fact, it took three players to make the magic happen, with Johan Larsson eventually beating a sprawling Bernier. Late in the period, however, the Leafs caught lightning in a bottle. Brandon Kozun scored his second goal, firing a wrist shot which gave Joakim Lindstrom his first point as a Leaf and Andrew MacWilliam his first as an NHLer.
Just twenty one seconds later, Leo Komarov noticed that David Booth’s shot was going a hair wide, and tipped it past Anders Lindback to give the Leafs a lead, that would last… a minute and a half. The Moulson-Ennis-Larsson line struck again, this time with Ennis being left wide open in front of the slot for an easy wrister.
Surely, all that was left was for Moulson to score next! Oh, but he did. Midway through the second, he finished off an EA Sports-esque cross crease play to regain Buffalo’s lead, which carried into the third. All was going according to plan, but then, the Leafs picked up a powerplay in the game’s closing minutes. On that man advantage, Phil Kessel fired off a howitzer of a slapshot, Tyler Bozak made contact with it, and deflected it into the net to tie the game. This brought the game into overtime, where the two teams traded chances, but ultimately ended up going to a shootout.
In that shootout, the Leafs only scored one goal; a wrister from Bozak, who hesitated and threw off Lindback. However, it was enough to win them the game; Jonathan Bernier’s “go low and kick out the left pad” would seem predictable, but it also predicted the location of the three shots he faced.
I’m going to give this one to Andrew MacWilliam, who has blossomed into a point-per-game NHL defenceman despite all of the doubters. Erik Karlsson better watch out.
- Jonathan Bernier found himself between the pipes tonight, and stopped 30 of 33 shots. He looked shaky at times but came up big as the game progressed; obviously, performing best in the shootout.
- It takes a remarkable lack of talent to be considerably outshot by the Buffalo Sabres, which was the case until the final minutes of the third period.
- Tyler Bozak played some of the best hockey he’s played this year in the final minutes of this game, and was rewarded with the game tying goal and the shootout winner. Even if the fans don’t want to see it, the players still want to do it, and its always good to see a guy get a result that he’s gunning for.
- I’d just like to point out that every player on a line that consists of “extra piece in a trade for a second liner”, “guy who is the second best athlete with the same name”, and “made great by John Tavares” scored a goal against the Leafs tonight. Obviously, not giving a lot of credit to Larsson, Ennis, and Moulson here, but that’s a pretty underwhelming line to allow such results from.
- The Leafs will continue to cause agony on your television on Friday night, against the Flames.