TOPPLED IN TORONTO
Kadri sinks Sabres with his first of the season
Friday, 12.23.2011 / 2:47 AM / THE AFTERMATH
By Kevin Snow - Sabres.com (@kwsnow)
TORONTO – The Buffalo Sabres got an “A” for effort. But in the end, it was the “L” that stung the most.
Nazem Kadri’s first goal of the season was the game winner, as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Sabres 3-2 at the Air Canada Centre on Thursday. The Sabres outshot Toronto 42-31, with 36 of the shots coming over the final two periods. Buffalo’s third-straight loss dropped them to 16-15-3 on the season, and into 11th place in the Eastern Conference.
“We’re trying to keep the belief that effort equals opportunity, and opportunity is what you need in this league,” said Ryan Miller. “We have to keep giving ourselves a chance. And as we believe in it, it should. I thought it was a good effort. We went down a forward in the third period, and we kept battling hard and got a lot of pucks to the net. I thought we did a lot better job with their speed than we did in our building. It was a frustrating loss.”
Buffalo’s leading goal scorer Thomas Vanek had been nursing an upper body injury for the past few days, and it finally caught up to him tonight. He skated 10:50 through the first two periods, but was forced to shut it down in the third.
“He’s missed two practices, we didn’t have a lot of options,” said Lindy Ruff. “He tried to get through it and wasn’t able to.”
The teams skated through a scoreless first period that featured a parade to the penalty box. Six minors were called, with the Sabres getting four of them.
The ice was titled in Buffalo’s favor for most of the second as they fired 19 shots at Toronto goaltender James Reimer. The game remained scoreless until midway through the period when Jason Pominville was finally able to dent Reimer’s armor.
With Nikolai Kulemin off for interference, Vanek spotted Pominville on the left faceoff dot and he fired a shot past Reimer with Drew Stafford parked in front on the screen. Vanek’s assist extended his point streak to four games (3-4-7).
The Sabres continued to build momentum in the period after killing off Toronto’s 55-second five-on-three power play. Buffalo allowed just two shots while down two men, and four total during the two penalties. They also blocked five shots
But all of Buffalo’s hard work in the second slipped away in a matter of 62 seconds.
After Ryan Miller made the save on Luke Schenn’s point shot, David Steckel sprung loose from the crowd in front to scoop the loose puck into an empty net at 15:52. Just over a minute later, Phil Kessel jumped in behind a fallen Robyn Regehr and one-timed a pass from Joffrey Lupul behind Miller for his 20th goal of the season
The ice was still wet from the zamboni when Derek Roy capitalized on a Toronto turnover at the start of the third period and wired a shot over Reimer’s left shoulder to even the score at 2-2.
Kadri put the nail in Buffalo’s coffin at 5:52 of the third when he took a drop pass in the slot from former Sabre Clarke MacArthur and beat Miller glove side with the game winner.
NOTES: Marc-Andre Gragnani (healthy), Jochen Hecht (lower body) and Tyler Ennis (ankle) were Buffalo’s scratches. The Sabres have now lost 142 man games to injury this season … Ville Leino was placed on injured reserve today.