Maple Leafs 4, Sabres 3
The lift the Toronto Maple Leafs so badly needed came from the
American Hockey League.
Ben Scrivens had nothing to do with a franchise-worst home
losing streak that doomed the team’s season, but had a big hand in
ending it by making 29 saves in a 4-3 victory over the Buffalo
Sabres on Saturday night.
”This team was maybe a little bit fragile,” Scrivens said. ”I
just wanted to try and come in and try to make as many saves as I
could and really just give these guys a chance. All the credit goes
to these guys, they’ve had a lot of pressure on them both
internally and externally.”
Scrivens won a night after making 33 saves in the Toronto
Marlies’ 5-4 overtime victory over Rochester in the AHL.
”You’ve got to focus on the task at hand,” Scrivens said.
”Last night was Rochester, tonight was Buffalo and we’ll see what
It was the first time since Feb. 6 – a span of 11 games – the
team celebrated a victory at Air Canada Centre. The ensuing 55 days
saw the Leafs plummet from playoff contention, replace coach Ron
Wilson with Randy Carlyle and give general manager Brian Burke
plenty of reasons to look at making big changes in the
Scrivens represents an interesting option moving forward.
The 25-year-old spent time with the Leafs in November and has
become one of the top AHL goalies since being sent back to the
Marlies. He leads that league in goals-against average, is third in
save percentage and there is hope he’ll be part of a long run in
the Calder Cup playoffs.
He did a nice job of handling the heat against a desperate
Sabres team, getting a blocker on a 2-on-1 chance by Tyler Ennis
early in the third period before stopping another shot in the dying
”He gave us a chance,” Carlyle said. ”He stopped a 2-on-1
early in the third period and it kind of rallied everybody.”
Joey Crabb scored short-handed and added an assist, and Phil
Kessel, John-Michael Liles and Matt Frattin also had goals for
Ennis, Ville Leino and Drew Stafford replied for Buffalo.
The Sabres are two points behind eighth-place Washington in the
Eastern Conference with just three games to play. The Capitals hold
the tiebreaker, so Buffalo has to make up three points in the
Asked after the game if he had been looking up at the
out-of-town scores, Sabres coach Lindy Ruff replied: ”I was
looking higher than that – for the big fellow to help out.”
There was a much better atmosphere inside Air Canada Centre than
on most Leafs game nights in recent months. Rather than heckling
their own team, fans had the chance to derisively chant Buffalo
goalie Ryan Miller’s name throughout the third period.
Miller didn’t allow any soft goals but thought he could have
”We scored some goals tonight, so I didn’t need to be
perfect,” Miller said. ”But I needed to make another save or
Playing for the second time in two nights, Buffalo wasn’t able
to impose itself on the fragile Leafs. The Sabres also couldn’t
convert on three power-play opportunities.
Crabb’s short-handed goal set the tone, with the Toronto forward
stealing the puck from Andrej Sekera at the blue line and beating
Ryan Miller for a breakaway goal at 9:32 of the first period.
That was an important 1-0 lead, especially with Scrivens making
just his ninth NHL appearance. During a callup earlier in the
season, the 25-year-old struggled in particular during home starts
– losing all three he made. He looked much more confident on this
night and wasn’t shy about coming out to challenge shooters.
There was little he could do on the play that saw the Sabres tie
it at 1. Drew Stafford made a good play to drive around a
defenseman and find Ennis, who roofed the shot at 10:59 of the
But Kessel restored Toronto’s lead less than 5 minutes later by
ripping a shot past Miller for his career-best 37th goal of the
”It’s been a while coming,” Kessel said.
Liles made it 3-1 with a backbreaking goal that came with 0.7
seconds to play in the period. He drove hard to the net and knocked
in MacArthur’s rebound – a play that required video review.
That set up the most important period of the season for the
Sabres, who briefly got some life after Leino shook off two
defenders and beat Scrivens with a backhander at 6:48. Frattin’s
seventh of the season at 10:20 gave Toronto the insurance it would
need when Stafford got his 20th at 17:15.
Notes: Tyler Myers sat out for the Sabres because of a foot
injury … Toronto scratched Cody Franson … Buffalo called up
defensemen Brayden McNabb and T.J. Brennan from the AHL and
inserted them into the lineup.