The gluttons for punishment – also known as the Toronto Maple Leafs fans who attend games in Buffalo – went home sad once again.
For the 17th time in 19 games, the Sabres dropped their closest rival in First Niagara Center. Cal O’Reilly scored twice to send the Sabres toward a 4-1 victory Thursday night. Buffalo improved to 17-1-1 in its last 19 home games against Toronto while winning for the seventh time in a row.
Leafs jerseys were prevalent in the crowd of 18,873, but the folks wearing them didn’t get many chances to make noise. The Leafs’ last victory in Buffalo was a 4-3 overtime decision Jan. 29, 2013. Toronto hasn’t won in regulation in Buffalo since Feb. 16, 2011.
Brothers gotta hug: For the first time in Sabres history, brothers picked up points on the same goal. Ryan O’Reilly earned the secondary assist on Cal O’Reilly’s first goal, giving the puck to Jack Eichel and watching the center set up Cal in the slot. The elder O’Reilly fired top shelf with 18.1 seconds left in the first.
The only other brothers to play at the same time for Buffalo were goaltender Bob Sauve and his forward brother, J.F., in 1980-81 and 1982-83.
O’Reilly again: Cal O’Reilly registered his first multigoal game in the NHL when he made it 3-0 with 3:41 gone in the second. He chased down a puck in the left circle and rifled a shot past goaltender Garret Sparks. O’Reilly’s previous multipoint game was Nov. 7, 2010, for Nashville.
Larsson stays hot: After picking up two assists in the previous game, Johan Larsson added two to his goal column. On his first goal, the play started from behind the Sabres’ net and went north with three quick passes as Rasmus Ristolainen, Marcus Foligno and Brian Gionta touched the puck before Larsson streaked into the Leafs’ zone. Using Morgan Rielly as a screen, Larsson beat Sparks with 7:09 off the clock.
Larsson scored into an empty net with three seconds left. After scoring just twice in his opening 54 games, Larsson has seven goals in the last 17.
Easy first for Johnson: The Sabres took the opening nine shots of the game and finished the first period with a 16-5 advantage. Buffalo goaltender Chad Johnson didn’t have to make a save until 8:04 remained, finally getting tested by Nazem Kadri’s shot through traffic.
On the board: The Leafs ended Johnson’s shutout bid with 6:28 to go in the second on their 11th shot of the game. Tobias Lindberg, making his NHL debut, skated behind the cage but dished the puck to the front just before doing so. His pass found Brooks Laich for the veteran’s second goal of the season.
The Sabres finished the opening 40 minutes with a 33-16 shot advantage.
Double review: The Sabres thought they made it 4-1 late in the second period, but the officials ruled otherwise – twice. Mark Pysyk’s point shot went past the screen of Hudson Fasching and into the net, but the referee waved the goal off. The Situation Room initiated a video review, but the referee informed the officials in Toronto that Fasching made incidental contact with Sparks in the crease before the puck crossed the goal line. It was not a reviewable play, so the referee’s call stood.
The Sabres’ Dan Bylsma then issued a coach’s challenge, saying there was no goaltender interference. After watching replays and consulting with NHL Hockey Operations staff, the referee confirmed Fasching made incidental contact, preventing Sparks from doing his job in the crease.
Domination at the dot: During the first two periods, Ryan O’Reilly won 20 of his 25 faceoffs. He set a career high with 24 wins.
No. 34 club: Sabres fan and Bills Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas tweeted a picture of new defenseman Casey Nelson and wrote, “Nice #34.” Thomas, of course, wore that number on the football field.
Lock it up: The Sabres improved to 19-3-2 when leading after two periods. The Maple Leafs, meanwhile, fell to 0-29-4 when trailing.
Next: The Sabres will play three of their remaining four games in the New York City area. Buffalo starts Saturday in Manhattan with a visit to Madison Square Garden to face the New York Rangers. The Sabres will cross the Hudson River to play the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday. After hosting Columbus in the home finale next Friday, the Sabres will close the season in Brooklyn against the New York Islanders on April 9.