TORONTO – The Buffalo Sabres had a great time in Toronto last week. With the playoffs rapidly approaching, the Maple Leafs got down to business this time.
Toronto methodically pulled away from Buffalo, making sure the visitors didn't win for the second consecutive Monday. The Leafs used a three-goal second period to drop the Sabres, 5-2, in Air Canada Centre.
As is often the case, the Sabres couldn't string together back-to-back impressive outings. They dropped league-leading Nashville, 7-4, Saturday but fell to 2-5 in the last seven games.
Toronto, which will face either Boston or Tampa in the opening round of the postseason next week, improved to 9-3 in the last 12. One of the losses was a 3-2 setback to Buffalo a week earlier.
If at first you don't succeed: Leafs forward Andreas Johnsson had a glorious opportunity alone in front, but Sabres goaltender Chad Johnson made a pad save. As the puck went to the boards, Johnsson remained alone in front. Tomas Plekanec quickly whipped a pass to Johnsson, and he got the better of the battle to make it 1-0 with 5:44 gone.
Stick work: Toronto defenseman Roman Polak took down two of the Sabres' three alternate captains with high-sticks during the first period. Polak dropped Kyle Okposo with 6:49 left. Two shifts later, Polak pitch-forked Jack Eichel, drawing blood and a four-minute double-minor.
The Sabres opened the second period with 3:10 of carryover power-play time.
Career high: Sam Reinhart made that carryover time pay off. As usual, the right winger stationed himself in front for a tip. He deflected Rasmus Ristolainen's point shot with 2:27 gone in the second, pulling the Sabres into a 1-1 tie.
Reinhart set a career high with his 24th goal of the season, bettering the 23 he put up as a rookie in 2015-16. Reinhart has four goals in two games.
Three up, three down: The Leafs took over in the second period after Reinhart's goal. They scored three straight in a span of 5:31, putting the Sabres in a 4-1 hole.
American made: Toronto star Auston Matthews snapped the 1-1 tie on the power play with 5:01 gone. The Arizona native skated into the left circle and put a laser into the far corner.
Pairing up: Toronto's William Nylander, the brother of Sabres prospect Alex Nylander, scored his 18th and 19th of the year to help Toronto pull away. Nylander split the defense of Marco Scandella and Justin Falk with 7:39 gone, then got behind Buffalo's defense again with 10:32 off the clock.
Topping last year: Jason Pominville scored 13 goals for Minnesota last season. He potted his 14th of the year for the Sabres with 2:56 gone in the third. Pominville pounced on a power-play rebound to make it 4-2.
Auston powers: Matthews joined Nylander as a repeat scorer, burying another power-play goal with 6:29 gone in the third to give Toronto a 5-2 lead. Matthews has 33 goals in 60 games.
Defense changes: The Sabres already knew they'd be without injured blue-liner Victor Antipin. Brendan Guhle was also scratched with an upper-body injury and is considered day-to-day. They were joined on the sidelines by Nathan Beaulieu, who was sick.
Josh Gorges rejoined the lineup after sitting three straight. Buffalo also dressed defenseman Matt Tennyson, who was recalled from Rochester. Tennyson was playing his 15th game of the season for Buffalo.
The pairs were Scandella-Ristolainen, Falk-Casey Nelson and Gorges-Tennyson.
Goalie update: Sabres coach Phil Housley said goaltenders Robin Lehner (lower body) and Linus Ullmark (concussion) remain day-to-day. They didn't make the trip. Adam Wilcox served as the backup for the second straight game.
Next: The Sabres wrap up the 2017-18 home schedule at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday when the Ottawa Senators visit KeyBank Center. All fans in attendance will receive a Dominik Hasek bobblehead.