Cody McCormick capped off a three-goal second period as the Buffalo Sabres defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 on Wednesday night at the HSBC Arena.
The physical forward, who came over from Colorado in the off-season, picked up a loose puck in front of the Toronto goal and stuffed it under Joey MacDonald’s left pad.
That goal at 15:42 of the second period gave Buffalo a 3-1 lead, an advantage that they wouldn’t relinquish.
Playing for the second time in as many nights, the Maple Leafs looked sluggish for the first 40 minutes, being outshot 29-15.
Ryan Miller played the entire game for Buffalo, stopping 23 shots for the win.
MacDonald went the distance for the Leafs, and despite a strong performance and 28 saves, wound up with the loss.
The Leafs came out flying to start the third and were rewarded. Nazem Kadri and John Mitchell teamed up to bring the score to 3-2. Kadri circled the net and sent a pass in front to Mitchell, who snapped the puck into the right corner.
Alexei Ponikarovsky nearly tied the game five minutes later when he broke in alone on a shorthanded breakaway, but couldn’t hang on to the puck as it drifted wide.
There was no scoring in the first period thanks to the play of MacDonald. He was strong early on, stopping eighteen shots through the first 20 minutes.
His best saves of the frame included a reaction right pad save on Mike Grier and snagging a tipped shot by Derek Roy.
The lone fight of the night was contested between Jay Rosehill and McCormick just 3:11 into the game.
Nathan Paetsch opened the scoring early in the second on a delayed penalty. After Garnet Exelby knocked over Jason Pominville, the Sabre forward had the wherewithal to get in front of the net and screen MacDonald on Paetsch’s point shot.
Jochen Hecht added to the lead less than four minutes later on another drive from the blue line. Hecht’s shot went off of Exelby’s foot and past MacDonald to give Buffalo a 2-0 lead.
Jiri Tlusty brought the score to 2-1 via the penalty shot. After he found himself in alone on Miller, he was tripped up by Tyler Myers and was awarded a penalty shot.
That momentum was short-lived though, as McCormick’s marker would restore Buffalo’s two-goal lead. The second period ended with the Sabres ahead 3-1.
The young Czech went to the left and deked before whiffing on the puck, which slowly slid through Miller’s legs. The unlikely goal gave the Leafs a temporary boost.
NOTES: Jamal Mayers did not play after suffering an injury Tuesday night. There is no word yet on when he will return to the lineup … Both teams played a lot of regulars as the exhibition season winds down … These teams will meet again on Sunday night in Toronto to close out the pre-season … Olaf Kolzig announced his retirement on Wednesday afternoon. He was acquired by the Leafs from Tampa Bay at last season’s trade deadline, but was injured and did not suit up in a Leafs uniform.