Things went well for the Buffalo Sabres' power-play unit. It fired at will, scored twice and provided a spark.
It wasn't on the ice all game, though.
Toronto scored once on the power play, but the Maple Leafs added three even-strength and one empty-net goal, leaving KeyBank Center with a 5-2 victory Thursday night. Backed by their boisterous, border-crossing fans, Toronto won for just the fifth time in the last 24 visits.
Buffalo took 12 shots on five power plays, connecting in each of the opening two periods. Leafs backup goaltender Curtis McElhinney finished with 38 saves.
No stick, no chance: As Toronto's James van Riemsdyk gained control of the puck below the Sabres' goal line, Buffalo's Jacob Josefson and the Leafs' Connor Brown skated through the crease. They knocked the goal stick out of Robin Lehner's hand, and van Riemsdyk slipped a bad-angle shot through the hole left by the departed stick.
The opening goal came with 3:39 off the clock.
Staying hot: Van Riemsdyk scored his fifth goal in two games to make it 2-0. Alone in the high slot with 6:39 gone, he fired past Lehner's glove and bounced the puck home off the post. It was the 31st goal of the year for the pending unrestricted free agent.
On the board: Sam Reinhart remained hot in his own right, pulling the Sabres within 2-1 with 5:31 left in the first. With Buffalo on the power play, Scott Wilson sent an Evan Rodrigues rebound to Reinhart. The right winger pushed home his 18th of the season, giving him 11 goals and 26 points in the last 26 games.
Long-distance connection: Toronto opened a 3-1 lead as defenseman Connor Carrick skated along the blue line and sent a long shot through traffic. It went under the arm of Lehner with 6:22 gone in the second.
Another point: This time, it was an assist by van Riemsdyk. He took a pass at the right side of the net on the power play and quickly turned to find Tyler Bozak on the other side of the crease for a 4-1 lead.
Zebra parade: The referees called four penalties in a span of 2:33 late in the second. A Toronto power play quickly turned into four-on-three and five-on-three advantages for the Sabres.
Power-play goal: Jason Pominville made sure the Sabres took advantage of the Leafs' penalties. He tipped Rasmus Ristolainen's point shot, pulling Buffalo within 4-2 with 58.5 seconds left in the first.
Shots, shots, shots: Buffalo took 19 shots during the second period to build a 30-26 advantage through 40 minutes. Toronto opened with a 14-5 lead.
Championship boxing: The Sabres' Nathan Beaulieu and the Leafs' Matt Martin had a haymaker-heavy fight with 6:27 left in the first period. Beaulieu threw six straight overhand rights late in the bout, including one that buckled the knees of the Toronto tough guy. Martin got back to his skates and landed a couple of rights of his own as the players tumbled to the ice to applause.
The Sabres gave Beaulieu deserved stick taps after he exited the penalty box.
— david nestico (@davidnestico200) March 15, 2018
Still out: Center Jack Eichel missed his 15th game with a high-ankle sprain, but he took part in the morning skate. He remains a possibility for this weekend.
There was practice jersey hanging in the locker of concussed Kyle Okposo, but coach Phil Housley said the right winger didn't skate on his own.
Scratched: Forward Seth Griffith and defensemen Justin Falk and Josh Gorges sat. Goaltender Linus Ullmark, who's been expecting a baby with his wife, was absent with a personal day.
Counting the house: All 19,070 tickets were sold.
Next: The Sabres will play the third game of their six-game homestand Saturday afternoon when the Chicago Blackhawks visit for a 1 p.m. faceoff.