Sabres aim to continue uphill climb in clash vs. Maple Leafs
The Buffalo Sabres will bid to boost their flickering playoff hopes Monday night when they visit the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Sabres trail the New York Islanders by seven points for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference after a 2-1 overtime loss at home to the New York Rangers on Saturday.
The Sabres, who have one win in their past seven games (1-5-1), open a three-game road trip on Monday.
The Sabres played a solid defense against the Rangers before falling on Artemi Panarin's overtime goal with defenseman Rasmus Dahlin in the penalty box.
"This one, it's really tough because we played a good game," Sabres goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen said. "How tight we played on defense, how good we were, I think, in both ends. It stinks to lose this one, but it is what it is."
It was a good defensive response to a disastrous 10-4 home loss to the Dallas Stars on Thursday.
"I think we played less tight than we have the last few games," Sabres coach Don Granato said. "I don't know if we got to 'fearless' yet. I think there's a whole other level or two for us, but we obviously have gone through phases and pushed in the area that was an obvious need for us to push. (It) was buckle down (defensively) and trust that the offense would come as a result."
"Sometimes when you push a defensive initiative, you lose scoring touch, so we don't want to over-push there, but those guys have to continue that."
The Maple Leafs are coming off a rousing 7-4 home victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday. The Maple Leafs scored five consecutive goals to take charge.
Captain John Tavares collected two goals and an assist while Mitchell Marner had one goal and three assists. William Nylander and Auston Matthews each scored and set up a goal.
Noel Acciari added two goals, the second into an empty net.
"Those guys were really focused, whether it was just because it's a Saturday night and all that, and playing against such good players on the other side and then, you know, we got it handed to us pretty good not long ago in Edmonton," Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. "I thought the guys responded well."
Nylander's goal was his 34th of the season to match his career best, set in 2021-22.
"We had a lot of great efforts," Keefe said. "Mitch, Auston, Willie, John all got on the board. I thought Noel Acciari was outstanding in all parts of the game."
"With our role, we've got to go out there and play at the level we want to be at," Tavares said.
Matt Murray, who made 22 saves for Toronto, will get the start on Monday.
Tavares was fined $5,000 by the NHL on Sunday for slashing Edmonton defenseman Vincent Desharnais.
"I have to be better in that scenario, control your emotions better," Tavares said. "That's on me."
--Field Level Media
Updated March 12, 2023