Toronto at Buffalo

Toskala, Maple Leafs damage Sabres' playoff hopes


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Even without captain Mats Sundin, the Toronto Maple Leafs are still alive in the playoff chase.

Vesa Toskala stopped 35 shots, and Matt Stajan had a goal, an assist and prevented a goal by blocking Ales Kotalik's shot headed for a wide-open net in a 4-1 victory against the perplexing Buffalo Sabres on Friday night.

"Everybody's written us off when we lost Mats," Stajan said, referring to Sundin, who missed his third consecutive game with a groin injury. "We're not going to die in here. We're going to keep going until it's over."

The victory, the Leafs' fourth in five games, moved Toronto within five points of Boston for the Eastern Conference's eighth and final playoff berth. The Maple Leafs also won their fifth consecutive road game, the team's best string since closing the 2003-04 season with a similar run.

The Sabres' playoff push took a hit. In having a three-game winning streak snapped, Buffalo lost ground. It dropped to 10th, a point behind Washington after the Capitals beat Atlanta.

"We have to take care of our own business," coach Lindy Ruff said. "There's nothing we can do looking at the outside anymore."

Buffalo was undone by an inept power play, and failed to build off a 7-4 victory against Tampa Bay on Wednesday, a game in which the Sabres scored six unanswered third-period goals.

Jason Blake and Darcy Tucker scored four minutes apart in the first period to put the Maple Leafs up 2-0. After Thomas Vanek cut the deficit to 2-1 in the opening minute of the second, rookie Anton Stralman regained the Maple Leafs' two-goal edge midway through the frame by scoring his first career goal. Stajan sealed the victory, converting his own rebound with seven minutes left.

"We've kind of dug ourselves into a hole," Sabres forward Jason Pominville said. "We have to make sure we get a good start, because when you don't get a lead, teams are patient and it's tough to come back."

It was even tougher for the Sabres to mount a comeback when their power play failed to produce. Buffalo converted one of eight opportunities and failed to score on three two-man advantages, including a two-minute stretch in the second period during which the Leafs were penalized three times.

"We had our chances, we didn't bear down enough and didn't execute, and that gave them a little bit of momentum," Sabres forward Drew Stafford said.

Toskala did his part, stopping 28 shots through 40 minutes, and then making two key saves in the third period -- both times foiling Pominville.

Toskala's most acrobatic save came with 10:50 left, when he got a piece of Pominville's hard and bouncing shot from the right boards, but the puck had enough momentum to dribble past him. Toskala reached back with his stick and swept the puck out of the crease inches before it crossed the goal line.

With three minutes left, Toskala made a key glove save, stopping Pominville on a short-handed breakaway.

Give Stajan an assist, too, in the goaltending department.

With Toskala out of position after stopping Derek Roy from in close, Stajan kicked out his shin to deflect Kotalik's shot during Buffalo's two-man advantage early in the second period.

Anything to help.

"I think Vesa makes enough saves for us," said Stajan, who was credited with four blocked shots.

Maple Leafs coach Paul Maurice sensed the boost his team got in winning a game without not only Sundin, but also Nik Antropov (knee) and defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo (groin).

"That's a great confidence-booster, and I don't think you can manufacture that kind of confidence that comes from success like that," Maurice said.


  • Sabres C Tim Connolly's season is over after the team announced he'll have surgery next week to remove bone spurs in his hip, which have been nagging him for the past three months.
  • The Leafs, 7-0-1 in their past eight road games, will play Sunday at Ottawa.
  • Pominville had an assist on Vanek's goal, extending his point streak to four games (three goals, seven assists).
Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
Maple Leafs goaltender Vesa Toskala frustrates Paul Gaustad and the desperate Sabres.  (AP)
Maple Leafs goaltender Vesa Toskala frustrates Paul Gaustad and the desperate Sabres. (AP)
Related Links
Toronto  (34-31-10) «2114
Buffalo (35-29-11)0101
Three Stars
V. Toskala

Saves: 35
Save Pct.: .972
M. Stajan

Goals: 1
Assist(s): 1
A. Stralman

Goals: 1
Assist(s): 1

Related Video

December 10, 2017
NHL Power Rankings (12/10) (0:56)
October 16, 2017
NHL Power Rankings (Week of 10/16)
September 7, 2017
2017-18 NHL preview: Toronto Maple Leafs
April 9, 2017
2017 NHL Playoff Picture
Scoring Summary
08:39Jason Blake (14), Wrist Shot. Assist: Alexander Steen, Alexei Ponikarovsky
12:15Power Play - Darcy Tucker (16), Wrist Shot. Assist: Pavel Kubina, Matt Stajan
31.0Power Play - Thomas Vanek (31), Tip-In. Assist: Derek Roy, Jason Pominville
08:27Anton Stralman (1), Slap Shot. Assist: Dominic Moore
13:08Matt Stajan (15), Snap Shot. Assist: Jason Blake, Anton Stralman
Penalty Summary
05:30Bell, 2 min, Roughing
11:42Afinogenov, 2 min, Slashing
15:05Stajan, 2 min, Tripping
17:46Kronwall, 2 min, Hooking
18:51Ponikarovsky, 2 min, Tripping
03:23Stralman, 2 min, Holding
04:06Newbury, 2 min, Bench - Too Many Men on the Ice
05:23Kubina, 2 min, High-Sticking
19:59Tucker, 2 min, Unsportsmanlike Conduct
19:59Gaustad, 2 min, Unsportsmanlike Conduct
01:52Vanek, 2 min, Tripping
13:43Stajan, 2 min, Roughing
13:43Mair, 2 min, Roughing
16:31Vanek, 2 min, Interference
19:27Blake, 2 min, Holding
Shots On Goal
Vesa Toskala60:00351
Ryan Miller59:14204
Power Play Conversions
Power Play
Game Information
Attendance - 18690
Referees - Chris Rooney, Bill McCreary
Linesmen - Scott Driscoll, Jean Morin
Other Games
NYI 3 Final
NJ 1
Ana 1 Final
SJ 2
Min 2 Final
Van 1
Wash 5 Final
Atl 3
NYR 3 Final
Phi 4