OFFENSE BUSTS OUT AGAINST BUFFALO
The Canadian Press
The Toronto Maple Leafs still have some issues to iron out this pre-season, but at least they seem to have settled on a top line.
Phil Kessel scored two more goals Monday as the Maple Leafs registered a 5-4 exhibition victory over the Buffalo Sabres.
The Leafs sniper has scored four times in three pre-season games - five, if you include a goal that was incorrectly waived off in overtime last Friday - and seems to have found some chemistry with linemates Tyler Bozak and Kris Versteeg. The unit was dangerous throughout the game against Buffalo and will likely remain intact to start to the regular season.
With just three exhibition games remaining, Leafs coach Ron Wilson is focused on finding chemistry. The lineup he dressed on Monday will likely be pretty close to the one that starts the season on Oct. 7 against Montreal.
All four Leaf forward units showed some promise against Buffalo on a night where the teams seemed content to trade chances
Nikolai Kulemin, with two goals, and Christian Hanson also scored for Toronto (3-2-1).
, with two, Drew Stafford
and Jordan Leopold
replied for the Sabres (1-1-0).
One area that remains a concern for Toronto is defensive play. They've surrendered 18 goals through six exhibition games and saw starter Jonas Gustavsson demonstrate some shaky play on Monday.
The teams traded the lead throughout the night.
Stafford opened the scoring on Buffalo's first shot, taking a pass from Roy and sliding a backhander under Gustavsson at 4:00.
A pair of goals by Kessel before the end of the period put the Leafs ahead 2-1. He found a loose puck during a goal-mouth scramble and beat Patrick Lalime
at 5:45 before finding himself alone in a similar spot and knocking Versteeg's pass into an empty goal at 14:53.
Gerbe brought the Sabres even at 3:38 of the second period, hammering a shot past Gustavsson on a power play after a nice solo rush from Roy. It was a big goal for the 23-year-old forward, who is bidding for a full-time spot in the NHL this season.
Toronto's second scoring unit then found the scoresheet to make it 3-2. Clarke MacArthur made a nice play to get the puck out of his zone before Kulemin patiently outwaited a defender and beat Lalime at 8:36.
Buffalo drew even once again as Leopold's point shot found its way through traffic and past Gustavsson at 15:11.
Two goals in a span of 65 seconds against Sabres backup Jhonas Enroth
provided the winning margin for Toronto. Kulemin beat him at 9:55 before Hanson scored his first of the pre-season with a big slapshot at 11:00.
Gerbe scored his second of the night on a penalty shot at 12:08, but the Leafs were able to hold on for the victory.
Notes: Nazem Kadri and John Mitchell, both on the bubble, were scratched by the Leafs ... The Sabres face the Senators on Thursday in Dundas, Ont., for the Kraft Hockeyville game ... Leafs winger Fredrik Sjostrom is expected to return from off-season shoulder surgery for Wednesday's game at Ottawa ... Announced attendance was 18,096.