Sabres snap Leafs' club-record 13-game home winning streak
TORONTO (AP) — Looking to extend one franchise mark and set another, the Toronto Maple Leafs entered Monday 25 spots ahead of the Buffalo Sabres in the NHL standings.
That didn’t matter to Jack Eichel.
The Sabres star scored his second goal of the game midway through the third period to lift last-place Buffalo over the Maple Leafs 3-2 and end Toronto’s club-record home winning streak at 13 games.
Casey Nelson had the other goal for Buffalo, which got 39 saves from Chad Johnson to end a four-game slide. Zemgus Girgensons added two assists.
“He’s a pro,” Sabres coach Phil Housley said of Johnson, who improved to 7-1-1 career against Toronto. “He got an opportunity on short notice and did a terrific job.
Patrick Marleau had a goal and an assist, and Nazem Kadri scored for Toronto. Frederik Andersen made 24 stops for the Leafs, who were also looking to set a franchise mark for victories in a season with 46.
“We had lots of good things, but then we got carried away with it and gave up some chances,” Toronto coach Mike Babcock said. “The bottom line is we did lots of good things, we didn’t win the game.”
Eichel got his tiebreaker at 9:36 of the third when he swept down the left side, fought of Nikita Zaitsev and slipped a backhand through Andersen’s pads for his 24th.
“Jack’s game all night was terrific,” Housley said. “From start to finish, he really brought it.”
After the Leafs turned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead late in the second, the Sabres tied it at 7:56 of the third when Nelson scored on a shot from the point through traffic that went off defenseman Roman Polak.
The Leafs challenged for goalie interference, but the call on the ice withstood a video review.
Nelson’s third goal of the season came after Toronto had a couple of chances to stretch its lead to 3-1 earlier in the period.
The Leafs pressed to keep their streak going, with James van Riemsdyk seeing his shot stopped by Johnson with less than seven minutes to go.
The Leafs pushed late with an extra attacker, but the Sabres held on to hand Toronto its first loss on home ice since Jan. 22.
“They were pretty persistent,” Kadri said. “To be honest with you, we played a pretty all-around game and had a lot of offensive opportunities. Their goaltender was good tonight. They’re a resilient group.”
Down 1-0 after the visitors grabbed an early lead, the Leafs had a number of chances to get even before Kadri finally broke through with 2:29 remaining in the second.
Marleau dislodged the puck from Buffalo defenseman Marco Scandella behind the net on the forecheck before Mitch Marner fed a quick pass in front to Kadri, who beat Johnson to give him back-to-back 30-goal seasons.
Kadri, who scored 32 times in 2016-17, has eight goals in the last six games at Air Canada Centre.
The Sabres were assessed a high-sticking penalty on the ensuing faceoff — the game’s first infraction of any kind — and Marleau banged home a loose puck in the crease on the power play at 18:42 after Auston Matthews took the initial shot.
The Sabres grabbed the lead at 3:23 of the first. Eichel pressured Matthews into a turnover in the corner in the Toronto zone before taking a feed from Girgensons and beating Andersen with a quick move to the forehand.
NOTES: The Leafs won 45 games in 1998-99, 1999-00 and 2003-04, and secured 44 victories in both 1992-93 and 2002-03 — seasons that all came before the NHL instituted the shootout to break ties in 2005. Toronto is 7-2 in shootouts in 2017-18.
Sabres: Host Detroit on Thursday night.
Maple Leafs: Host Florida on Wednesday night.
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