Now that was a hockey game!

Toronto squeezed past Buffalo with 2.7 seconds left in overtime

Paul Hamilton
December 04, 2018 - 11:08 pm

Photo: Kevin Hoffman - USA TODAY Sports

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Buffalo, NY (WGR 550) - The Sabres and the Leafs didn’t disappoint on Tuesday night at the arena. The Sabres played a great game, but couldn’t hold a lead again.

Rasmus Ristolainen probably had his best game of the season as he gave Toronto fits with his play in the offensive zone. With just eight minutes gone in the first period, Buffalo held a 9-3 shots advantage. Ristolainen was a big part of that setting up Evan Rodrigues for an early, in-close chance.

Later in the first, Ristolainen came flying down the slot, only to be robbed by Frederik Andersen. He had to play a little defense in the final five minutes as the team got sloppy, but it was an overall good period. The Sabres fired 14 shots at Andersen, while Linus Ullmark had to be sharp more than once on John Tavares.

Conor Sheary and Tavares traded scoring chances before Auston Matthews came through. The puck went in the air and Nate Beaulieu couldn’t locate it. Matthews closed his hand on the puck to pull it down, and scored his 14th goal in 14 games on the wrap around. That is a penalty to close your hand on the puck, but it’s very rarely called.

Buffalo tied it later when Jeff Skinner won a faceoff in the left circle. Skinner and Sam Reinhart went to the net to screen Andersen for Beaulieu. Reinhart just barely got his stick on the shot to give him seven goals and 17 points in 17 games.

Things were back-and-forth until 10 seconds remained in the period. Johan Larsson failed to keep a puck in deep and the Leafs came out. Mitch Marner put a spin move on Lawrence Pilut and fed Tavares. Tavares made a slick pass to Jake Gardiner who came in from the point because Patrik Berglund didn’t cover him and it was 2-1 after two.

When they should've been tired, Buffalo stuck with it in the third and again, when they tied the game, it was a faceoff win by Skinner. Ristolainen continued his best night as a Sabres getting the puck at the right point. He just didn’t blast it into a bunch of bodies, Ristolainen got his head up and found Eichel off the post for a tap in.

Things got dicey midway through the period when Tavares got behind Pilut for a breakaway. Ullmark flashed the glove to make what very well could be the save of the year.

Buffalo took the lead with 7:03 left in regulation when Reinhart forced Nazem Kadri into a bad turnover at the blue line. He fed Eichel down the slot and Eichel made no mistake netting his seventh. With two goals in the game, this is something that could get the Sabres captain going from a goal scoring standpoint.

The Sabres got a bad break on the tying goal, but it was also a veteran play by Patrick Marleau. Morgan Rielly’s point shot hit the back wall and came right out to Marleau who had the empty net.

Buffalo had 41 shots on Andersen, including four in overtime, but couldn’t push the puck through. Toronto had one last chance and with 2.7 seconds left, Evan Rodrigues lost coverage on Matthews down the slot and he made no mistake ripping home his 15th goal in 14 games.

Ristolainen had two assists in his 27 minutes of work. Rasmus Dahlin played 29:15, while Zach Bogosian put in 26:34. Pilut had 22:49, and Beaulieu was just over 15 minutes. Housley had no injury report on Casey Nelson.

Whether you were a Buffalo fan or a Toronto fan, you got your money’s worth in this game. It just, plain and simply, was a great game by two good teams. The game was played at a fast pace, and maybe a little too fast for kids like Casey Mittelstadt, Tage Thompson and sometimes Pilut, but that’s OK. Now they’ve been through a game like this and all will learn from it.

Buffalo got its shot mentality back, which Housley has been searching for the past few weeks. Now, the team gets Wednesday off and doesn’t have a game until Saturday when the Flyers are back. It’s a chance to rest, heel up some injuries and get back to the hockey like Tuesday that can win them games.

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