Tyler Ennis scored the game winner in the second period as the Buffalo Sabres defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1 in a pre-season tilt on Saturday at the HSBC Arena.
Andrej Sekera and Rob Niedermayer also scored for the Sabres, while Nikolai Kulemin replied for the Leafs.
Buffalo dressed many of their regulars, including Ryan Miller in goal, in its first exhibition game, while the Leafs used a younger line-up in their fifth game in consecutive nights.
Many of the Leafs in action on Saturday will be returned to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies or their junior clubs before the blue-and-white’s next game as the roster is expected to be trimmed to a more manageable size of 25 or 26 men.
Toronto’s netminding tandem of Jonas Gustavsson and Jussi Rynnas did well to keep the score close, as the Leafs were outshot 44-25.
Nazem Kadri had another rough night trying to impress the Leafs management playing on the top line with Luca Caputi and Colby Armstrong.
In the first period, Kadri took an ill-advised penalty when he was called for interference in the offensive zone after he hauled down defenceman Tyler Myers.
On the game-winning goal, the 19-year-old turned the puck over on an odd-man rush leading to a Sabres two-on-one, and Ennis made a nice move to the backhand to beat Gustavsson.
Leafs coach Ron Wilson was quick to point out Kadri’s defensive deficiencies when asked about the centre’s play.
“He showed me he turns the puck over a lot, and he’s to get over that,” Wilson said following the game. “I don’t know how sharp his skates are because he can’t stop when there’s a turnover, he goes for a big skate.”
“A lot of little junior things that we have to get out of his game.”
The Sabres took a 3-0 lead minutes later when the Leafs gave up the puck in the neutral zone and Niedermayer, one of Buffalo’s few off-season acquisitions, raced down and beat Rynnas with a shot between the legs.
Sekera opened the scoring midway through the first period with a blast from the blue-line that made its way through traffic and past Gustavsson.
The Swedish goaltender was expected to play the entire 60 minutes for Toronto, but after a busy first half of the game, Rynnas took over netminding duties.
Kulemin scored the lone Toronto goal late in the second period as he took the puck off a scrambled face-off and released a wrist shot over the shoulder of Jhonas Enroth, who replaced Miller midway through the game.
One area of concern for the blue-and-white heading into the pre-season was to improve last season’s league-worst penalty killing, and through five exhibition games Toronto has killed off 17 of 18.
Notes: Andrew Crescenzi, signed by the Leafs to a three-year entry level contract on Friday, made his pre-season debut on Saturday … The Leafs next exhibition game will be a re-match with the Sabres on Monday night at the ACC … A strange sight in Saturday’s game in Buffalo for any viewer under the age of 30 was the lack of advertising along the boards at the HSBC Arena.