It felt like a Toronto home game. The scoreboard proved the game was in Buffalo.
The rivalry between the Sabres and Maple Leafs is lopsided in favor of the home team, a trend that continued Monday night. The Sabres used a boatload of fortuitous bounces to pick up a 5-3 victory in KeyBank Center.
The home team has won 25 of the 31 games in the series. Chants of "Go, Leafs, Go" rang out before the game and during it, but Buffalo improved to 19-3-1 in its last 23 home games against Toronto.
It was the first of four meetings between the teams, who next face off March 15 in Buffalo.
Quick start: The Sabres' power play got a chance with just 1:23 off the clock, and it needed only 20 seconds to score. Right wing Sam Reinhart parked himself in front of the Leafs' net, and defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen put a hard pass right on Reinhart's stick for a tip.
Tipping encouraged: The Sabres made it 2-0 with another deflection. This time, Jason Pominville got his stick on Ristolainen's pass to stun goaltender Frederik Anderson with 3:43 off the clock.
While playing for the Sabres, Pominville has 19 goals and 50 points in 51 games against the Leafs.
Late rally: Toronto scored on the power play with 7.4 seconds left in the first period, cutting the Sabres' lead to 2-1 before intermission. Goaltender Chad Johnson stopped William Nylander's shot, but Leo Komarov put the rebound in the top corner.
The Maple Leafs finished the opening period with a 14-6 shot advantage.
Head-spinning tie: Matt Martin and Komarov played a two-man version of keep-away to make it 2-2 with 9:12 left in the second. The rush was Martin to Komarov to Martin to Komarov, who finished the play for his second of the net.
Skates count: Zemgus Girgensons didn't need to do much to end his drought of eight games without a point. Ryan O'Reilly won a faceoff in the Leafs' zone to Sam Reinhart, who bounced a pass off Girgensons' skate and into the net to put Buffalo back in front with 6:30 to go in the second.
Referees count: The Sabres got yet another bounce two minutes later. Toronto defenseman Ron Hainsey tried to clear the puck around the boards, but he struck the official behind the net. The puck bounced to O'Reilly in the right circle, and he buried his 19th of the year to make it 4-2.
Challenging drought: Johan Larsson chased down a rebound of Jason Pominville's blast, taking out Andersen at the top of the crease in the process, and sent the puck home with 10:05 left in the game. Toronto issued a coach's challenge for goaltender interference, but the goal stood to make it 5-2.
Larsson ended a 14-game goal drought with his third goal in 58 games.
Late power: With the Leafs on the power play and Andersen pulled for an extra attacker, Mitch Marner scored with 2:03 to play.
Ouch: Center Kyle Criscuolo, recalled from Rochester on Sunday, left midway through the second period with an apparent upper-body injury. Martin hit Criscuolo into the boards, and the rookie immediately disappeared down the tunnel.
Fight: Nazem Kadri didn't like a hit from Ristolainen behind the net, so he cross-checked the defenseman and dropped the gloves. Ristolainen held tight to Kadri throughout the fight and threw one overhand punch, then exhorted the crowd to get loud like he was Rob Ray pummeling an opponent.
The TSN broadcast caught Ristolainen in the penalty box telling Kadri they'll meet four more times, but Kadri correctly responded there were only three more meetings after Monday.
Reunited: Defensemen Brendan Guhle and Casey Nelson shared the blue line in Rochester for much of the season, and they were partners again Monday. Buffalo's other defense pairs were Marco Scandella-Rasmus Ristolainen and Nathan Beaulieu-Victor Antipin.
Josh Gorges and Justin Falk were the healthy scratches.
Still missing: Sabres center Evan Rodrigues sat for the second straight game with an upper-body injury. Center Jack Eichel missed his 11th game with a high-ankle sprain. Toronto center Auston Matthews missed his fifth straight with a shoulder injury.
Honored: During a first-period break, the Sabres honored arena security guard George Phillips, who is retiring at the end of the season after more than 40 years on the job. Team President Russ Brandon presented Phillips with a personalized jersey.
Counting the house: The Sabres announced 18,705 tickets sold.
Next: The Sabres have a stretch of three games in four days, including two at home. They host the Calgary Flames on Wednesday and visit the Ottawa Senators on Thursday. The expansion Vegas Golden Knights made their inaugural visit to Buffalo on Saturday afternoon.