TORONTO – The goal was partially a gift. And Kyle Okposo wasn’t going to waste it. His teammate created the opportunity and he had noticed the tendency of Toronto netminder Frederik Andersen.
His tally midway through the first period gave the Buffalo Sabres a 1-0 lead and ended a five game goalless drought for Okposo.
But the gift was wasted Tuesday night as the Sabres dropped a 4-3 decision to the Maple Leafs in Air Canada Center.
“We’re skating, we’re working,” said Okposo, who was selected for the NHL All-Star Game and leads the Sabres with 13 goals. “We’ve just got to find a way to string a few together. It’s just up and down. Win one, lose one. Win two, lose two. And we’ve just got to find a way to use that speed and play full 60s.”
Okposo found his opportunity to get on the scoreboard for the first time in five games when Will Carrier forced a bad clearing pass from Andersen. Okposo knocked the puck down with his glove then shot it, right past Andersen, who was tangled with Carrier as he tried to scramble back into the net.
The Maple Leafs called for a review, claiming goaltender interference by Carrier, but the goal stood and with it the Sabres had scored the first goal in their fourth straight game.
“I’ve obviously been a little snakebit lately and I’m just trying to work hard and do things I can,” Okposo said. “It was nice to get a bounce like that tonight.
“He had played up the middle a couple times before so I was just trying to read that and he did it again.”
It was the third unassisted goal in the last two games for the Sabres, who used speed to capitalize on miscues by the Dallas Stars in Monday’s 4-1 win in KeyBank Center. In that game, Tyler Ennis opened the scoring with an unassisted goal followed up by Jake McCabe who also scored unassisted.
Carrier was involved in two reviewed goals. The first was Okposo’s goal when the Maple Leafs called goalie interference.
“Not at all,” Carrier said when asked if he interfered with Petersen. “I tried to avoid him. I didn’t look at it, but no, it wasn’t even close.”
Then his goal with 17:37 left was reviewed. Carrier again drove the net and used his stick to direct a pass from Zemgus Girgensons into the net. His stick was deemed below the crossbar when he made contact. It was Carrier’s fourth goal in his 30th game with the Sabres this season.
“Will adds that speed and energy to every line he plays on,” Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. “You saw it on the first goal with him putting pressure on the goalie and forcing that play there. You see it on the third goal for us that with his speed he’s just crashing the net. Zemgus gets him the puck and it’s just his speed that creates the opportunity.”
Ennis was a bit of a surprise scratch. He had returned from a groin injury Monday and played the entire game but did not take warmups Tuesday.
“It wasn’t unexpected from our standpoint,” Bylsma said. “Just more precautionary and him coming back from his injury and not playing back-to-back games.”
Buffalo defenseman Cody Franson played his 500th NHL game and his 100th with the Sabres. Franson played 236 games with the Leafs from 2011-2015. He finished Tuesday’s game a minus-1 with one shot and three hits in 21:11 of ice time.
Franson's defense partner, Zach Bogosian, played his 500th career game Friday in Carolina.
The 13th annual Sabres Alumni Wine Festival will be held on Wednesday, March 29 in KeyBank Center from 6 to 9:30 p.m. The festival includes food and wines from Western New York and Southern Ontario with Sabres alumni. It will also include music, auctions and raffles with proceeds benefiting breast cancer care in Western New York.
Tickets for the business attire event are $75 each and are available at Sabres.com/winefest, the KeyBank Center Box Office, or by calling Nick Fearby at 716-855-4452.
The Rochester Americans announced it will induct forward Scott Nichol and longtime reporter Kevin Oklobzija into the Amerks Hall of Fame on Friday, March 3 when Rochester hosts the St. John’s IceCaps at The Blue Cross Arena.
Nichol played parts of six seasons for the Amerks from 1994-95 to 1999-00 and helped Rochester capture the 1996 Calder Cup championship during the team’s impressive run of six straight postseason appearances.
Oklobzija is just the second reporter in franchise history to earn the honor and first since Hans Tanner was inducted as part of the inaugural class of 1986. Oklobzija began covering the Amerks for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle Media Group for the 1985-86 season, covering two Calder Cup championships (1987 and 1996) and 23 of the team’s 44 playoff appearances, including five other trips to the Calder Cup Finals.