Special teams spell trouble for Maple Leafs

Loss to Buffalo came down to time in the box and inability to kill penalties

Nazem Kadri had two points in the Leafs loss to the Sabres.
Nazem Kadri had two points in the Leafs loss to the Sabres.

Poor performance from the Toronto Maple Leafs special teams led to their first loss of the pre-season on Friday night at the Air Canada Centre.

The Buffalo Sabres went 3-for-3 on the power play and added a shorthanded goal as they defeated the Leafs 6-4.

“I think it is one thing when you come to the rink and the other team beats you, I think it is another thing when you get in your own way and I thought we got in our own way here tonight,” said Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock following the game.

“I thought we pushed in the third and then obviously on the power play, or on the penalty kill we couldn’t keep it out of our own net tonight.”

Toronto (3-1-0) got out to an early lead on goals by Stuart Percy and Daniel Winnik to hold a two-goal lead just over midway through the opening frame. However, penalty trouble late in the period gave the momentum over to the Sabres.

After Matt Hunwick earned two minutes for interference, Morgan Rielly was called for tripping 30 seconds later. The Leafs killed off the 5-on-3, but Marcus Foligno put the Sabres (2-1-0) on the board while Rielly was still in the box.

The second period started with the Leafs restoring their two-goal lead on a goal form Matt Frattin, but the rest of the period was all Sabres. Buffalo scored three goals in the middle frame to take the lead on a shorthanded goal by Ryan O’Reilly.

“There’s another shorthanded goal for our team,” said Dan Bylsma, head coach of the Sabres. “We definitely lead the league in shorthanded goals this pre-season.”

Going into the final frame down by a goal, the Leafs came out flying controlling the play and keeping the puck in the Buffalo end. Three minutes in, the newly formed top line of Nazem Kadri, Joffrey Lupul, and Michael Grabner tied the game at four on Kadri’s goal.

However, the Sabres again capitalized on Leafs mistakes to take the lead after Mark Arcobello went to the box for slashing. Mark Pysk scored the game winner at 15:05 of the third and David Legwand added and empty net goal to seal the win.

“There were times when it really looked like the pre-season, it was really sloppy and we weren’t making plays sometimes,” said Rielly. “That’s a team that got a lot better, they made some big moves in the offseason, they have a lot of young talent.”