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Morgan Rielly saves Leafs with late goal to win in Buffalo




The Toronto Maple Leafs went into Buffalo Saturday night and ended up with a 5-4 victory over the Sabres. Maple Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly buried a wrist shot through traffic with 11.8 seconds left in the third period to break a 4-4 tie.

Alexander Kerfoot, who set up Toronto’s third period tying goal Friday against Calgary, pounced on a Sabres turnover and set up Rielly in the high slot. Rielly fired a puck that was on its edge, and it went off the crossbar, hit the ice and spun back into the net behind Sabres goaltender Aaron Dell.

The Maple Leafs made dramatic changes to their forward lines for this game. It seemed to work early because the Maple Leafs supporting cast got more involved in the goal-scoring against the Sabres.

However, the Maple Leafs also could not hold the lead.

The Scoring Begins

At 2:43 of the first period, Maple Leafs centre David Kampf scored something of a fluke goal. He tried to get the puck towards the net, and it slid under defenceman Robert Hagg then right between the legs of Sabres goaltender Aaron Dell. The whole thing appeared to happen in slow motion.

The Sabres evened the score at 14:42 of the first period. Jeff Skinner captured a rebound off the end boards from a Colin Miller shot and one-timed it into a gaping cage behind Maple Leafs rookie goaltender Joseph Woll, making his first NHL start.

Ondrej Kase crossed with Auston Matthews on an attack into the Sabres zone. After fanning on his first attempt, Kase re-loaded and went high glove side to give the Maple Leafs a 2-1 lead at 7:18 of the second period.

70 second later, Michael Bunting capitalized on a deflection from a Jake Muzzin point shot. Bunting snapped it into a wide-open net as Dell could not react in time. At 3-1, the game should have been comfortable for the Maple Leafs. It was not.

The Sabres would not go quietly. Tage Thompson’s one-time blast from the top of the right-wing circle brought the Sabres within one. Jeff Skinner stole the puck deep in the Toronto zone before feeding Thompson. That made it 3-2 Maple Leafs at 17:33 of the second period.

John Tavares gave the Maple Leafs another two-goal lead with a power play goal in the third period. Tavares deflected a Morgan Rielly point shot at 9:22 of the third.

Sabres  Rally

Then the Sabres rallied. At 10:47 of the third period, Jeff Skinner scored his second of the game. Maple Leafs defenceman Travis Dermott turned the puck over deep in the Toronto zone and Tage Thompson instantly found Skinner at the back post.

Buffalo wasn’t done. Less than a minute later, at 11:56 of the third, Rasmus Dahlin’s point blast got past Maple Leafs goaltender Joseph Woll, who was holding Mitch Marner’s stick after losing his own stick during the preceding play.

John Tavares and Morgan Rielly both had a goal and an assist to lead the Maple Leafs attack. Alexander Kerfoot had two assists.

Jeff Skinner was dangerous for the Sabres, and finished with two goals an assist. Tage Thompson had a goal and an assist. Kyle Okposo added a couple of helpers.

Joseph Woll earned the win in his first NHL start, stopping 23 of 27 Sabres shots.

The Maple Leafs have won eight of their past nine games. They have not all been pretty. Their next game will be Tuesday at home against Nashville.

Takeaways and quotes coming soon.

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