Toronto Maple Leafs officially unveiled their new third uniforms on Friday afternoon, a throwback look that features a print originally worn during the team’s memorable1967 playoff run.
Not coincidentally, that’s the last time Toronto hoisted the Stanley Cup.
A few hours later, the boys in blue took to the ice for their fourth pre-season contest in five nights, against their QEW rivals from Buffalo, hoping some fresh faces, and not the new-fangled jerseys, would help revive some of that lost magic from the glory years.
Earlier in the day, Leaf icons Darryl Sittler and Wendel Clark were on hand for the sweater announcement, and hours later it appeared the Leafs could have used some of their legendary scoring touch in a 2-1 defeat.
Jason Pominville’s power-play marker at 12:27 of the third stood up as the game winner.
The Buffalo winger found the puck and fired a wrister after Christian Ehrhoff’s initial shot ricocheted high off the right shoulder of Leafs goalie James Reimer, who failed to handle the rebound.
In the first of back-to-back games with the Sabres, the Leafs were looking to establish team chemistry on their top-two lines, while freeing youngsters Nazem Kadri and Matt Frattin to strut their stuff in a battle for one of the few roster spots still undecided.
When the pre-season kicked off Monday, Frattin and fellow forward Joe Colborne were the underdogs behind Kadri in a three-way duel for placement on the Leafs’ third line.
Buffalo struck first, capitalizing on some sloppy play from defenceman Keith Aulie in his own end.
Corey Tropp notched his first of the pre-season at 7:15 of the opening frame, banking home a loose rebound in front with the Leafs struggling to regroup following the turnover.
The No. 1 line of Phil Kessel, Tim Connolly and Joffrey Lupul showed flashes of prominence, as did the second grouping of Nikolai Kulemin, Mikhail Grabovski and Clarke MacArthur.
Coach Ron Wilson thinks the second line is currently playing the most consistent hockey among the groupings.
“In my mind, that is the No. 1 line,” Wilson told the media postgame. “They had a great game, were good in their own end, applied pressure and had a number of good chances.”
Kessel knotted the game 1-1 midway through the second period, tucking a crease-side free puck under a sprawling Ryan Miller. John-Michael Liles and Kadri picked up the assists on the tally.
After being outshot 12-7 in the first, the Leafs turned up the heat on the visiting Sabres, firing 15 pucks on goal in the second, versus Buffalo’s meagre five.
Overall, the Leafs outshot the Sabres 34 to 33.
Miller sharp all the way
Miller, the 2010 Vezina Trophy winner, looked to be in mid-season form for the Sabres, stopping 33 of 34 shots faced. He appeared especially spry making a post-to-post blocker save on Mike Zigomanis in the late stages of the second period.
Reimer, who went 20-10-5 for Toronto last season, turned aside 32 shots, while Ben Scrivens played the role of backup.
Buffalo’s Tropp nearly had his second of the night when he found himself barreling in alone on Reimer in the opening minutes of the third, but the Leafs netminder was up to the task.
Reimer was making his second start of the week, after taking a 4-0 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday.
Scrivens, who the Leafs inked as an undrafted free agent in April 2010, has stopped 23 of 24 shots faced in two pre-season appearances this week, splitting time with the incumbent No. 2 goalie, Jonas Gustavsson.
Toronto went 0-for-3 on the power play, while Buffalo scored once on its five turns with the man advantage.
Notably absent from the lineup were defencemen Mike Komisarek and Luke Schenn, along with forwards Jay Rosehill, Colby Armstrong and Tyler Bozak.
Fans will get their first look at the retro jerseys when the Leafs open the regular season at home against the Montreal Canadiens on Oct. 6.