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Sabres scoring first, but struggling to hold on to leads

It’s a classic Jerry Seinfeld bit where he rants about reservations. Seinfeld arrives at a car rental counter only to find out while the company has his reservation, they don't have an actual car for him.

With a slight tweak, the scene applies to the Buffalo Sabres in their last 10 games.

They can take the lead, but they can’t hold a lead. And that’s really the most important thing about the lead – the holding of it.

In eight of their last 10 games, the Sabres have scored the first goal. They’ve won just three of those games. Of their five losses this season when scoring first, four have come in the last 10 games.

The latest collapse came Tuesday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Air Canada Centre. Kyle Okposo scored at 10:16 of the first period and the Sabres built a 2-0 first-period lead only to watch the Leafs rally for three second-period goals en route to a 4-3 win.

“I thought they changed their game plan a little bit in the second period and just started throwing it out to the neutral zone, sending guys, and with a couple bad bounces that kind of was the difference,” Okposo said after the game. “They took the momentum over in the second period but other than that it was a pretty good game.”

Overall, the Sabres were pleased with their effort against the Leafs and frustrated with the results. They did not practice on Wednesday and will get back to the ice on Thursday before entering another set of back-to-back games – hosting the Detroit Red Wings on Friday then traveling to Montreal to play the Canadiens on Saturday.

The sting of Tuesday's loss, however, will likely linger.

“It’s a tough loss. One that we really wanted and one that we really needed,” Sabres captain Brian Gionta said. “But you have to look back at the effort. We were there. We were trying to establish our game plan. We pushed it by their D a bunch and had some good looks, forcing them back on their heels, but it’s one of those things. We’ve got to regroup.”

In the last eight games where the Sabres scored first:

Jan. 17 at Toronto – Okposo scores but the Sabres lose, 4-3,

Jan. 16 vs. Dallas – Tyler Ennis scores 19 seconds into the game and the Sabres earn a 4-1 win.

Jan. 13 at Carolina – Will Carrier gives the Sabres a 1-0 lead at 4:24 of the first, but Carolina scores three in the second period and Buffalo loses, 5-2.

Jan. 12 at Tampa Bay – Matt Moulson scores at 2:58, but the Lightning tie the game on the power play a few minutes later and hand the Sabres a 4-2 loss.

Jan. 10 vs. Philadelphia – Sam Reinhart opens the scoring at 5:15 of the second period, starting a three-goal surge in the middle 20 minutes for the Sabres, who win, 4-1.

Jan. 5 at Chicago – Marcus Foligno scores unassisted at 7:21, but Buffalo gives up the game-tying goal with 2:04 left in regulation, then loses in overtime to the Blackhawks, 4-3.

Jan. 3 at New York Rangers – Zemgus Girgensons gives Buffalo a 1-0 lead at 12:17 and the Sabres earn a 4-1 win.

Dec. 29 vs. Boston – Foligno scores just 1:32 into the game but the Sabres lose, 4-2.

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