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5 Observations: Sabres top Maple Leafs 5-3

Posted at 10:14 PM, Mar 05, 2018

Before the puck even dropped the thousands of fans that made their way down the QEW from Toronto filled KeyBank Center with "Go Leafs Go!" chants. By the end of the game those same fans were quiet, as they watched the Buffalo Sabres take down the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-3. 

Five observations from Monday's win:

Back with the big club

In his first stint with the Sabres this season, Brendan Guhle was one of the best players on the ice. Against the Maple Leafs Guhle was solid, which isn't a bad thing for someone playing in their sixth NHL game. At times Guhle showed why he has so many fans excited, flying up the ice and jumping into the rush. But with the good came the bad, as Guhle had a few missed passes and turnovers.  

However you look at it, it's hard not to like what Guhle brings to the lineup. He's blazing fast, has a cannon from the point and is usually defensively sound in his own end. Overall, a nice night for the 20-year-old defenseman. 

His partner though....

Casey Nelson has been one of the few pleasant surprises for the Sabres this season. That said, Monday was not his best game. His most noticeable mistake was in the first period as Nelson gift-wrapped a glorious chance to Zach Hyman in front of the net. 

Nelson was trying to make a pass but whiffed as he attempted to send the puck up ice. The puck ended up going just a few feet to Hyman, who was all by himself. Luckily for the Sabres, Chad Johnson was there to bail out his team. 

Along with the mistake, Nelson just didn't look as smooth with the puck on his stick. No need to panic, everyone has a below average night every now and then. 

Credit where credit is due -- he made a really nice play to break up a Leafs 2-on-1 in the third period to squash a great scoring chance. For my money, the final period of the night was Nelson's best. 

Carrying the load 

You know who didn't have a so-so night? Sam Reinhart and Ryan O'Reilly.

Both players scored and continued their recent hot streaks, helping their team knock off one of the powerhouses in the Eastern Conference. 

Reinhart opened the scoring with a nice deflection in front of the net just minutes into the game. For those keeping tabs at home, 15 of Reinhart's 16 goals this season have come from around the crease. The only goal that wasn't from just outside the blue paint was an empty-netter he cashed in from the neutral zone.

As for his linemate, O'Reilly was stellar all night and was eventually rewarded with a crazy bounce. In the final minutes of the second period, Leafs defenseman Ron Hainsey attempted to clear the puck from his own end. Instead, the clearing attempt hit the skate of an official, bouncing right to O'Reilly, who beat Frederik Andersen with a wrist-shot. 

With his two-point night, O'Reilly now has 12 points in the Sabres last 11 games. Reinhart also had two-points against the Leafs and now has an impressive 23 points in the Sabres last 22 games. 

Chad Johnson continues to impress 

No player on the Sabres has had a better few weeks than Chad Johnson. After an abysmal start to the season, Johnson has now won five of his last six starts, allowing only 12 goals during that span. Chances are he'll keep getting starts as the Sabres close out the season [16 games remaining]. 

This was fun 

For years Toronto fans have made their way to Buffalo to watch their team take on the Sabres. As to be expected, there was an astronomical amount of Leafs fans in the building on Monday, creating quite the atmosphere. 

Before the game even began, Toronto fans made their presence felt as they loudly the booed the Sabres at the start of warmups. Sure, there were Sabres fans trying to cheer louder than the Toronto boos but they were unsuccessful. With the Sabres struggles this season KeyBank Center has been a pretty lifeless building. Monday certainly wasn't lifeless and made for one of the best atmospheres this season. 

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