BUFFALO - The Leafs suffered their first loss of the New Year in Buffalo on Friday night.
Jason Pominville broke a 2-2 tie in the second period as the Sabres topped the Leafs 3-2 at First Niagara Center, closing a home and home set which saw each team emerge at home. The loss snapped a four-game win streak for the Leafs, who were previously unbeaten in 2012 (4-1-0).
"I thought all in all we played very well throughout the whole game," Ron Wilson said. "We just didn't get enough pucks to the net and didn't have much puck-luck."
Buffalo jumped ahead by two in a near-instant, scoring twice in the opening four minutes with the Leafs storming back to tie it by the time the period had closed. Pominville went ahead and clinched it for the Sabres at the 14:13 mark of the middle frame.
"Overall, I thought our effort was there," Dion Phaneuf said. "I thought it showed a lot of character to come back early there. You're down 2-0 on the road in a building that's got a lot of emotion, it shows the character we have to come back and even it up.
"They pushed, they got that one in the second and we just couldn't break them in the third."
The four-point swing sees the two clubs separated by just six points in the Eastern Conference standings; the Leafs in seventh with 49 points, the Sabres in 11th with 43 points.
1. The go-ahead goal and eventual game-winner saw Pominville camped on the doorstep of Jonas Gustavsson - quietly behind Luke Schenn - untouched as a pass from Thomas Vanek floated through the crease. "We lost our coverage in front of the net," Wilson said. "We were caught staring at the puck."
2. Matt Ellis and Paul Gaustad found the scoresheet in odd circumstance quickly in the first. Ellis - from behind the goal - bounced a puck off Cody Franson in behind Gustavsson for the Sabres first goal. Gaustad followed with a shot off the rush that deflected off of Carl Gunnarsson. "Couple of unlucky bounces," Gustavsson said.
"One goes in off a pant, the other goes in off a foot," Phaneuf said. "That's not an excuse, that's reality."
3. Mikhail Grabovski's resurgence continued in defeat. Grabovski scored his 14th of the year to open the scoring for the Leafs, also setting up Joey Crabb for the game-tying goal minutes later. Grabovski has seven goals and 13 points in the last 13 games. He's tied with Joffrey Lupul for the early lead in January scoring with seven points, leading the way with four goals.
4. The Leafs are winless in four straight on the road (0-3-1) and have dropped seven of nine away from the ACC. They sit at 10-11-1 for the year.
5. Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul failed to find the scoresheet in consecutive games for the first time all year. Remarkably consistent to this point, Kessel falls to fifth in the overall scoring race (48 points) with Lupul dropping back to sixth (47 points).
The Leaf penalty kill - 30th overall at 73.9% - remained perfect for the fifth consecutive game (9-9), extending the longest such streak for the club this season. Buffalo came up short in two opportunities…Crabb has scored all seven of his goals this season on the road…Phaneuf led the Leafs in ice-time at 26:25…Amid swirling trade rumours, Luke Schenn played just 14 minutes, lowest on the Leaf blueline. Schenn did set up Grabovski's goal with a clever pass off the end boards…The Leaf powerplay came up empty in four opportunities, snapping a streak of five consecutive games with a goal…Gustavsson's four-game win streak came to an end. He made 22 saves in defeat...The Leafs and Sabres have split the season series thus far with each club winning twice at home...Ryan Miller made 24 saves for Buffalo.