Tuch scores twice in 3rd, Sabres rally past Maple Leafs
Alex Tuch scored two goals in the third period for the Buffalo Sabres, who rallied for a 4-3 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena on Monday.
Tuch was playing for the first time since Feb. 24 after missing eight games with a lower-body injury.
“I thought we just got back to trying to work and make simple plays and then one line after another and another,” Tuch said. “It makes a huge difference out there, especially in the second period with those long changes. So, if you can hem a line in for one, two changes, it’s huge. It causes a lot of disruption in their lines, especially if you have their top guys out getting tired or their top guys sitting on the bench not being able to play. So I think it helps a lot, and it’s little things like that that really create momentum and allow you to just roll it over.”
Dylan Cozens had a goal and an assist, Owen Power and JJ Peterka each had two assists, and Craig Anderson made 25 saves for the Sabres (33-28-5), who had lost four straight (0-3-1) and six of seven (1-5-1).
Buffalo trails the New York Islanders, who have played two more games, by five points for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.
“Tonight was important for us because we played really well the other night (2-1 overtime loss to the New York Rangers on Saturday) and didn’t get a win and didn’t get the reward of the work,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “We’ve talked a lot about the work being defending, defending the right way and playing the right way. Tonight it wasn’t working on the scoreboard halfway through the game, but sticking with the process … again, the chatter on the bench, there was no emotion, no extra wasted energy anywhere. They were dialed in. This group knows they can score. We’re trying to sell that other side to them and believe in that confidence. Obviously, it came through tonight.”
Auston Matthews had a goal and two assists, Mitchell Marner had two assists, and Matt Murray made 25 saves for the Maple Leafs (40-18-8), who had won two in a row.
Toronto remained four points ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning for second in the Atlantic Division with one game in hand.
“We got two goals early in the (second) period, puts us in a good spot,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. “I didn’t think we took care of it very well from there and then just allowed it to snowball. When you don’t exit out of your zone cleanly, they get rolling and they get momentum, and now you’re tired and you can’t play your game. … I thought we played better in the third. Our second period was our worst period by far, maybe of the season to be honest.”
Tuch tied it 2-2 at 3:39 of the third period with a one-timer from in front off a spinning backhand pass from Tage Thompson, who fought off Jake McCabe below the goal line.
Cozens then gave Buffalo a 3-2 lead at 9:39, scoring on his own rebound in front after he redirected Riley Stillman’s pass from the point between his legs.
“All those plays were on us (not Murray), just losing coverage, not being hard on pucks, and just giving them too much leeway to get to our net to get quality shots off and opportunities,” Matthews said.
Tuch pushed it to 4-2 at 11:19 with another one-timer, this time from the slot off a pass from Jeff Skinner for a power-play goal. It was his 30th goal of the season.
“What a pass by ‘Skinny,'” Tuch said. “He actually wrote it on the puck and he gave it to me. In quotes it says, ‘What a pass.’ No, it was an unbelievable pass by Jeff. Playing with those guys (Skinner and Thompson), it’s been a lot of fun. They’re two great guys off the ice, too, but they come in and they work really hard and they have a lot of success, and it’s been a lot of fun. We have a lot of good chemistry out there. We’re just having fun. It showed tonight. It felt good. It did feel good.”
William Nylander cut it to 4-3 at 18:58, warding off Rasmus Dahlin in the right face-off circle before roofing a shot short side over Anderson’s left shoulder. It was his 35th goal of the season, an NHL career high.
Matthews gave the Maple Leafs a 1-0 lead at 1:11 of the second period. Jacob Bryson knocked the puck away from Marner as he tried to cut across the crease on a 2-on-1, but the loose puck deflected off the skate of Alexander Kerfoot and bounced back out to the low slot, where Matthews batted it past Anderson’s blocker.
Calle Jarnkrok made it 2-0 at 4:13 when his shot from the high slot deflected five-hole off Dahlin’s right leg.
Jack Quinn cut it to 2-1 at 14:58, batting in his own rebound from the edge of the crease shortly after a power play expired.
The Sabres outshot the Maple Leafs 17-3 in the second period, including 16-0 following Jarnkrok’s goal.
“Just 50-50 battles,” Matthews said. “I think just a little careless with the puck at times, and obviously they made good on some of their chances and we didn’t. They tilted the ice their way, and we were just chasing it from that point.”
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— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) March 14, 2023