It was yet another night where the Leafs just couldn’t get the start they wanted. Although the Sabres are currently at the bottom of the NHL, the Leafs found themselves in another two-goal deficit before the first period was over.
It took only seven minutes for Matt Moulson to open the scoring for the Sabres. Just 53 seconds later, John Scott, known more for dropping the gloves than goal scoring, got the Sabres up by 2.
As the second period progressed, the Leafs seemed to find their legs. They were able to shake off their poor start when Jake Gardiner got the Leafs within one just as the period reached the halfway point. The Leafs erased the Sabres two-goal lead as Peter Holland tied the game five minutes later.
With less than a minute left in the second frame, the Leafs took the lead for the first time in the game with a goal by Phil Kessel as the Sabres began to find themselves in penalty trouble. It looked like the Leafs would be able to have an inspired come-from-behind win in their first game back from their short Christmas break when the Leafs seemed to get sloppy with penalties. A Dion Phaneuf hooking minor gave the Sabres a short two-man advantage with their goalie pulled, and they were able to tie the game with 25 seconds left.
Both teams would remain scoreless in overtime and would need the shootout to decide a winner. Kessel was up first for the Leafs and wasn’t able to score on his chance. Matt Moulson also missed on his attempt for the Sabres. Joffrey Lupul was the only player who would score for either team, giving the Leafs a 3-2 win.
Leafs goaltender Jonathan Bernier, who was in net for two of the Leafs previous shootout losses, was proud of the way this team was able to rebound from their start in their victory. “That’s the thing with shootouts. You have highs and lows but at the end of the day at least you’re getting a point. We came through as a team and those wins are the best.”
The Leafs have a rare Saturday night off before facing the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday evening at the Air Canada Centre. It will be their last game before they play the Red Wings in the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day.
Leafs scorers: : Jake Gardiner (2), Peter Holland (6), Phil Kessel (18), Joffrey Lupul (SO)
Sabres scorers: Matt Moulson (13), John Scott (1) Steve Ott (5)
Goaltenders: Bernier (Win), 65:00 minutes played, 32 saves, 3 GA, Miller (Loss), 64:05 minutes played, 39 saves, 3 GA.
Guest writer Pamela Yap is a Sheridan College post-grad in Journalism New Media and wrote for CBC during the 2012 London Olympics.