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Sabres out to continue success over Maple Leafs

Jan 27, 2024; San Jose, California, USA; Buffalo Sabres right wing JJ Peterka (77) skates against the San Jose Sharks during the third period at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: Robert Edwards-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Robert Edwards-USA TODAY Sports

The visiting Buffalo Sabres go for their third win in three tries over the Toronto Maple Leafs this season when the Atlantic Division teams meet Wednesday night.

The Sabres defeated the Maple Leafs at Buffalo 9-3 on Dec. 21 and posted a 6-4 victory at Toronto on Nov. 4.

The Sabres are coming off a 5-2 home loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday. The Sabres have won five of their past seven games, including a 7-2 home romp Saturday over the Vegas Golden Knights.

The Maple Leafs lost for only the second time in 11 games when they dropped a 4-1 decision to the visiting Boston Bruins on Monday.

The Maple Leafs have a rematch Thursday against the Bruins, who are a possible first-round playoff opponent, but need to turn their attention to the Sabres on Wednesday. The Bruins have won all three games against the Maple Leafs this season.

The Sabres took a 2-1 lead into the third period against the Jets but appeared to run out of gas while playing for the third time in four days.

“We made too many mistakes,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “It cost us. Lost some battles that you would like to have won and made some mistakes. That was the difference.”

Eric Robinson gave the Sabres the lead in the second period on his third goal of the season, but Buffalo never scored again.

“I don’t know if we were playing not to lose instead of trying to just go out there and play in the offensive zone and play defense by playing offense,” Robinson said. “It just felt like we were trying to hold onto it. You can’t do that against good teams.”

JJ Peterka opened the scoring for Buffalo in the first period.

“I think our guys fought fatigue,” Granato said. “But you either find a way to fight through it or find a way to be more efficient. And we were caught in the middle. … I don’t think we pressured pucks enough. And when we didn’t, we weren’t smart enough filling the right areas.

“We were on occasion early and throughout the game, but in the last 10 minutes, obviously, the dam broke there.”

Sabres goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen started on back-to-back days, Saturday and Sunday, for the first time this season, He has started 19 of Buffalo’s past 21 games.

“If I get a start, I’m happy about it,” Luukkonen said. “I felt I was ready for it. It was really an unfortunate third, but I felt like I had an all right game and I felt good.”

Joseph Woll started in goal Monday for Toronto. He likely will start again Thursday with Ilya Samsonov starting Wednesday.

The Maple Leafs saw the Bruins take a 3-0 lead early in the second period Monday before cruising to the victory. Boston was coming off a 5-1 road loss to the New York Islanders.

“They defended their net a lot better than we defended ours,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said. “The quality of chances I thought that we gave up were more challenging than theirs.”

William Nylander had his 10-game points streak (eight goals, 10 assists) end against the Bruins. John Tavares scored for Toronto.

“We just made a few too many mistakes and (they were) just a little harder in certain areas,” Tavares said. “I thought they just did a little better job around their net than we did around ours.

“Playing against a team like Boston in games down the stretch, those are big difference-makers. Margins are very small, so I think it’s a good lesson for us.”

–Field Level Media

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