The Buffalo Sabres came out of the locker room sporting their vintage third jerseys, but as the players looked up in the stands, there was a good chance they were seeing just as much blue and white as blue and gold.
The Sabres put on a solid performance for their fans, defeating Toronto 3-1 Friday at HSBC arena.
The fans were easily drawn into the game early on, due to the high-intensity action.
Patrick Kaleta drilled Nikolai Kulemin into the boards and then got into a scrap with Luke Schenn. Just 30 seconds later, Colton Orr began a line brawl by jumping Paul Gaustad. Orr received six minutes for roughing, giving the Sabres a four minute power play.
The Sabres defense continued to help the offense, just as is have been doing all season. Buffalo capitalized with Jordan Leopold’s sixth goal of the season. With the goal, the Sabres have scored on their first shot in two of the last three games.
Just over a minute later, Vanek ripped a shot past Jonas Gustavsson, putting the Sabres up 2-0. The goal now ties Derek Roy for the team lead with nine.
The Sabres outshot the Maple Leafs 16-5 in the opening period. However, the first period was no indication of how the rest of the game would go.
The Maple Leafs played a much better second period, outshooting the Sabres 15-5, but couldn’t get the puck past Miller.
Toronto had plenty of opportunities in the second and third periods, but couldn’t capitalize on any of five straight power plays.
Instead, Patrick Kaleta put home a rebound, scoring a short-handed goal and giving Buffalo a 3-0 lead.
The Leafs got a shorthanded goal of their own, breaking Miller’s shutout. Phil Kessel beat Miller to get Toronto on the board late in the game, but it was too little, too late for the Leafs.
Buffalo managed to hold off Toronto’s late surge and earned the two points. With the victory, the Sabres gained on every team in the Northeast Division. Boston, Montreal and Ottawa all lost on Friday, as well as the Leafs, obviously.
Miller improved to 11-1 in his last 12 games against the Leafs.
“I’ve been trying to calm my game down a little bit,” said Miller. “Earlier in the season, I expected myself to be perfect every night. You can’t do that unless you’re relaxed and in better position.”
Miller returned to net after missing two games with a groin injury and improved his career record to 23-8 against Toronto.
Head coach Lindy Ruff liked what he saw in Miller’s game.
“He looked comfortable, in control,” said Ruff. “He made those breakaway saves look easy.”
The Sabres will head to Montreal to take on the Canadiens on Saturday. Montreal will be looking to bounce back from a 3-0 loss to Atlanta, while the Sabres will search for their second straight win.
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