Matthews’ 54th goal of the season secures Maple Leafs 2-1 overtime win over Sabres

Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Joseph Zita
1 month ago
Just two months after being embarrassed by the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center, losing 9-3 before heading into the Christmas break, the Toronto Maple Leafs welcomed them into Scotiabank Arena last night, looking to end their slump against them and get back in the win column after their recent loss to the Boston Bruins.

First period:

Although Toronto was coming off another loss to an Atlantic division team, 4-1 to Boston, the talk yesterday was about the trades that took place. From Tarassenko landing in Florida to Bowen Byram and Casey Mittelstadt swapping teams to Noah Hanifin landing in Vegas, some General Managers were quite active.
Toronto hosted Buffalo last night to close out their five-game homestand, looking to bounce back and get back in the win column. The game started slow, and I mean slow. Neither team looked that energetic once the puck dropped, and luckily for Toronto, Buffalo looked even worse. The Maple Leafs got out to a 3-0 shot advantage through the first five minutes of the period, and that advantage slowly grew to 6-0 well into the period, while Toronto limited Buffalo to zero shots on the net. The game was beyond low event in the first period, neither team had more than ten shot attempts.
However, with roughly five minutes to go in the frame, Timothy Liljegren took a penalty after the Sabres finally had some extended zone time in Toronto’s end of the ice. They recorded their first four shots of the game with less than five minutes to go, and while on the power play and once it expired, they kept their foot on the gas. The Leafs didn’t record a single shot for almost nine minutes or a shot attempt once Buffalo recorded their first shot of the game, and the fans in attendance and watching at home were thankful the period ended because that might’ve been one of the worst periods of the season.
Toronto entered the first intermission tied 0-0 and outshot 10-6.

Second period:

It was a very dull first period for both sides. That was evident. But the second period began differently. Roughly two and a half minutes into the middle frame, the second line, who has gotten a lot of criticism over the last handful of games due to their play away from the puck, got Toronto on the board first. William Nylander, who had his 10-game point streak snapped against Boston, wired his 34th of the season past Luukkonen, giving his team the 1-0 lead.
Unfortunately, like this team did many times at the beginning of the season, they allowed a goal not long after scoring. Roughly four minutes after Nylander’s tally, Victor Olofsson flew down the wing and ripped his fifth of the season past Samsonov, tying the game at one. It wasn’t a good play by Morgan Rielly, who was the only guy back there defending. He didn’t close the gap, allowing Olofsson to skate in and take a clean shot.
The Maple Leafs were rewarded with their first power play of the night when Rasmus Dahlin was whistled for hooking. But unfortunately, the trend continued from the power play unit(s). They recorded zero shots, wasting another power play (0-for-10 in their last five games at the time of their second-period power play). Similarly to the first period, it wasn’t an overly entertaining period. Neither team took control of the play, and barely any chances felt like they were high-danger chances. Outside of Nylander and Olofsson’s goals four minutes apart, neither team scored again for the rest of the period.
Toronto entered the second intermission tied 1-1 and outshot 19-15.

Third period:

It’s no secret this game was a snooze fest through 40 minutes for both teams, and there was a heavy case to be made that neither team deserved the two points. However, that’s not possible. Someone had to walk away with the two points, and with both teams entering the third period tied at one, it felt like whoever scored the next goal was likely to be the hero.
The third period continued a trend we saw in the previous two periods: long stretches of no shots.
In the first period, Toronto had a 6-0 shot advantage through the first 10+ minutes, which followed a nine + minute stretch of zero shots that carried over into the second period. In the third period, Buffalo recorded their first shot within the first 30 seconds of the period but went almost three-quarters of the period without recording another shot, as they were outshot by Toronto 9-1 well over the midway mark of the frame. The Maple Leafs came close to scoring the go-ahead tally a couple of times, but Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen was there to turn them aside, keeping it a tie game as the period winded down.
Both teams headed to overtime tied 1-1, giving the fans some extra hockey.

Overtime period:

After 60 minutes couldn’t produce a winner, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres headed to overtime, with Toronto looking to end their three-game losing streak to the Sabres.
Toronto hasn’t been an overly dominant team in overtime this season. They’ve won games, yes. But if you’ve watched all their games in overtime, you’ve seen them struggle at times, and it’s noticeable.
Buffalo won the opening face-off to begin overtime, thus starting the possession game. Neither team had many opportunities for the majority of the period. But one chance in particular, from Tage Thompson, got the crowd on its feet after Ilya Samsonov robbed him point-blank, keeping the game alive.
That save from Samsonov kept his team in it, with a chance to potentially win it, and that’s what they did. With under a minute left, with Matthews, Marner, and Rielly on the ice, Mitch Marner spun off a defender behind the goal line and fed Auston Matthews alone in the slot, who fired his 54th of the season past Luukkonen for the game-winner.

Who stood out:

As mentioned numerous times in this article, this game was a bit of a snooze fest.
Not many players stood out positively last night. It was more of a mid-performance if you understand. They weren’t dominant, but they weren’t terrible either. It was the definition of mid.
Outside of the third line, the other three lines didn’t produce much at five-on-five last night. McMann, Tavares, and Jarnkrok had another solid performance since becoming a line three games ago. According to Moneypuck.com, they played 10:13 at five-on-five, won the shot attempt battle 12-8, outshot the opposition 9-4, and generated an xGF of 0.99.
Morgan Rielly and his new (old) partner, Ilya Lyubushkin, had a solid game together. They played 14:08 at five-on-five, won the shot attempt battle 12-6, outshot the opposition 7-2, and outscored Buffalo 1-0 on the ice together. It’s only the third game with these two paired up again, but the results have been positive.
You can catch the Toronto Maple Leafs’ next game tonight when they travel to Boston to close out their back-to-back against the Bruins for the final meeting this season. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 pm ET/4:00 pm PT.

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