Over the years, Buffalo has not been a city where the Toronto Maple Leafs have had much success. Entering Thursday's game, the Leafs had only four wins in Buffalo in their previous 23 games. Thursday proved to be much kinder for the 'road' team, as the Maple Leafs knocked off the Sabres 5-2.
Five observations from Thursday's loss:
Five days off
Buffalo hasn't played since Saturday afternoon in a matinee against Vegas. Toronto, on the other hand, played on Wednesday evening and got into town early Thursday morning.
Despite their rest, the Sabres fell behind 2-0 less than halfway through the first period while Toronto dominated play at both ends of the ice. When these two teams met 11 days ago, the Sabres start propelled them to a win. Replicating their start from last week would've gone a long way for the Sabres. Instead, they played catch up all game. The only problem, they never actually caught up.
Blue paint blunder
It'd be fair to say Thursday wasn't Robin Lehner's best game. He by no means deserves all the blame but also could've bailed his team out early with a big save. Without a stick, there wasn't much Lehner could do on James van Riemsdyk's first goal of the evening from the side of the net. The shot clearly caught the Sabres' net-minder off guard.
Van Riemsdyk scored again moments later, as the Sabres gave him all the time in the world to let off a perfect wrist-shot. Even with the poor defense, Lehner had a good look at the shot and flat out got beat.
In the second period, the Maple Leafs quickly added onto their lead, as a Connor Carrick floated a shot from the blue line past Lehner. It was tough to see if Lehner even saw the shot. As for the fourth goal, there was absolutely nothing Lehner could do. Once again van Riemsdyk made an awesome play, sliding a perfect pass to Tyler Bozak who slammed home the goal.
Right at home
Sam Reinhart's second-half surge continued, scoring his 18th goal of the season from you guessed it, just outside the crease. Reinhart now has 26 points in the Sabres last 26 games, giving him 39 points on the season. If he keeps up this pace he'll finish the year with around 50 points, which is pretty impressive when you consider that he had only 11 points before the calendar turned to 2018.
As to be expected, there were royal blue and white jerseys everywhere. This is just a guess, but I'd be comfortable saying about 70-percent of the fans in the building were cheering for the team from up the QEW. All night "Go Leafs Go!" chants filled the arena, creating a truly unique atmosphere.
Last Monday Nazem Kadri and Rasmus Ristolainen finally dropped the gloves after years of tension had built up. Apparently, the two haven't buried the hatchet because once again they went at it all night long.
In the second period, Ristolainen got the best of Kadri, delivering a hard hit along the wall. Kadri took exception, proceeding to cross-check Ristolainen from behind and take a penalty a few seconds later. Chances are, these two will go at it again.