Nylander, Matthews lead Maple Leafs to 5-2 win over Sabres
Andreas Johnsson also scored as Maple Leafs extended a franchise record with their 48th win and matched the team mark for points (103) set in 2003-04.
Matthews has five goals and 10 points during his seven-game streak to give him 60 points in 60 games. Meanwhile, Nylander is up to 59 points. They trail only Mitch Marner (69) in team scoring with two regular-season games remaining.
”I feel like we’ve had (chemistry) since we started playing with each other last year and especially with (Zach) Hyman as well,” Matthews said. ”The more you play with somebody, obviously, you build more chemistry and get to know them and have a feel for where they’re going to be in certain areas. We definitely showed that tonight.
Backup goalie Curtis McElhinney stopped 32 shots to help Toronto win for the 15th time in the last 17 at home while getting their 28th win at the Air Canada Centre.
”Home’s been pretty good to us and we feel we have an advantage when we step into the arena here,” Matthews said.
Sam Reinhart got his career-high 24th goal for the last-place Sabres, and Jason Pominville also scored. Chad Johnson finished with 31 saves.
Buffalo came into the game following a 7-4 win Saturday at Nashville.
”You think you’re heading in the right direction and then you take a step back,” Pominville said.
Matthews broke a 1-1 tie on the power play at 5:01 of the second period as he scored top shelf on Johnson from just inside the faceoff circle.
Nylander made it 3-1 on a breakaway at 7:39 after Matthews caught Buffalo on a bad line change and made a stretch pass ahead to the streaking Swede, who broke in alone to beat Johnson glove side.
Nylander added his second of the period for a three-goal lead, going backand-to-forehand before snapping it under the bar for his 19th a little less than three minutes later.
”I thought the first period was pretty good, then we tied it up with the power-play goal,” Sabres coach Phil Housley said. ”Then we didn’t manage the puck very well, get caught on a line change and game gets out of reach. (The Leafs) have a terrific rush game and can finish.”
The Sabres pulled to 4-2 with their second power-play goal 2:56 into the third when Pominville put home a rebound for his 14th.
Matthews made it 5-2 with his second power-play goal of the game, finishing off a Nylander pass for his 33rd goal and 60th point in 60 games.
Johnsson opened the scoring at 5:44 of the first when he deflected a pass from Tomas Plekanec past Johnson.
Buffalo had its opportunities to put a goal on the board before the period was through with Toronto defenseman Roman Polak taking back-to-back high sticking penalties – including a double minor – but the Sabres couldn’t get much going.
Polak had 5:37 of ice time in the first, a secondary assist on Johnsson’s goal and six minutes in high-sticking penalties.
The Sabres began the second period with more than three minutes remaining in Polak’s double minor and finally took advantage when Reinhart deflected Rasmus Ristolainen’s point shot past McElhinney to tie it at 2:27.
NOTES: Toronto’s 103 points 14 years ago came before the NHL started using shootouts to decide games tied after overtime. The Maple Leafs have seven shootout wins this season. … McElhinney made rare back-to-back starts, with coach Mike Babcock choosing to give starter Frederik Andersen some extra rest. Andersen has faced the most shots of any goalie this season and is third in minutes played. … Toronto F Leo Komarov was out of the lineup for personal reasons. He was replaced by Matt Martin.
Sabres: Host Ottawa on Wednesday night in their final home game before finishing with two on the road.
Maple Leafs: At New Jersey on Thursday night before returning home to close the regular season.