The Toronto Maple Leafs were once again victims of the shootout, but it should have never reached that point. Toronto had a 3-1 lead over the Buffalo Sabres midway through the second period and were not able to close the door. The Sabres scored three unanswered goals forcing the Leafs to level the score in the third just to earn a single point.
James Reimer again made several crucial stops in the shootout before giving up a goal to Steve Ott that gave Buffalo the lead. Clarke MacArthur couldn’t equalize giving the Sabres a 5-4 victory. Toronto now drops to 1-11-1 in their last 13 games in Buffalo. The Leafs have now lost five of six contests and must regroup quickly to get ready to host the Boston Bruins on Saturday.
Here are a few things that stood out from the game.
Jake Gardiner making a difference
Gardiner had an excellent game picking up an assist and finishing as a plus-3. Even without the numbers he makes a big impact on the Leaf blueline. His skating ability alone is something Toronto has been lacking in recent weeks, as they have given up several goals by not being able to match the opposition’s speed. Gardiner also has the ability to make strong stretch and outlet passes from inside his own zone to start the rush.
Colton Orr’s foolishness
Ryan Hamilton had been called up to replace Joffrey Lupul because of his suspension, but he did not play. Instead head coach Randy Carlyle opted to dress both Orr and Frazer McLaren, and it nearly cost the Leafs. Just after the two minute mark Orr received an instigating and cross checking penalty, which left the Leafs shorthanded for four minutes. Fortunately for Toronto, Buffalo couldn’t capitalize. Fighting is one thing, but getting caught up in Patrick Kaleta’s antics and putting your team in a hole is another.
Nazem Kadri was the Leafs best player
There aren’t too many nights anymore when Kadri isn’t the team’s best player. Once again he had a three-point game with two goals and an assist. Kadri also finished as a plus-3 and his second goal tied the game to get Toronto to the overtime. That’s now eight points in his last three games and Kadri is now up to 33 points in 31 contests on the year.
The dreaded shootout
Whatever the reason, the Leafs just always seem to struggle in shootouts. They have lost six of their last seven, including three in a row. Clarke MacArthur was a peculiar choice to take such an important shot tonight because he has never scored a shootout goal in his career, but in the sixth round I suppose the Leafs were running out of options. Those are vital points that are slipping away and could easily cost the team a playoff spot.