Matthews scores NHL-leading 54th goal of season, Leafs defeat Sabers 2-1 in OT

Auston Matthews scored his NHL-leading 54th goal of the season at 4:20 of overtime as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Buffalo Sabers 2-1 on Wednesday night.

William Nylander scored the goal in regulation time for Toronto (36-18-8). Ilya Samsonov saved 24 times.

Victor Olofsson responded for Buffalo (29-29-5). Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen made 25 stops.

Matthews, who scored one goal in his last five games, took a pass from Mitch Marner and scored the game-winner in overtime with Samsonov making a great glove save on Tage Thompson.

Following Monday’s 4-1 loss to Boston, the Leafs entered play nine points behind the Bruins, with three games in hand, for second place in the Atlantic Division.

The Sabres, who beat Toronto 6-4 at Scotiabank Arena on Nov. 4 and defeated the Leafs 9-3 at home on Dec. 21 when Samsonov allowed five goals on 19 shots before getting the hook, started the night 10 points behind the East. Second wild card spot in the conference.

Nylander, who had a 10-point streak snapped on Monday, opened the scoring at 2:29 of the second period when he received a pass from Tyler Bertuzzi and scored his 34th goal of the season past Luukkonen.

Olofsson tied it at 6:31 when he scored his fifth up on Samsonov in the race.

Nylander had a couple of slim chances on the same penalty later in the period, including a shot against the post from a tight angle and a nice solo effort deflected by Luukkonen.

Samsonov, who has bounced back nicely after his early struggles this season, which included a demotion to the American Hockey League, made a nice glove stop on Alex Tuch four minutes into the third.

Luukkonen then denied Matthews at the other end from close range before the Leafs hit another post in a scramble.

Samsonov had to be quick in the final seconds on a shot that changed direction in the slot to secure at least a point for the hosts.

Toronto led 6-0 on the shot clock through 15 minutes of a low-level first period before Buffalo, which barring a late rally will miss the playoffs for the 13th consecutive season, launched 10 straight shots at Samsonov.


KAMPF RECOVERS, MCCABE ILL

Leafs center David Kampf (illness) dressed after missing practice Tuesday, but defenseman Jake McCabe was sick and did not play. Pontus Holmberg was eliminated by Toronto, who dressed fellow forward Noah Gregor for the first time since February 21.


REINFORCED REAR END

The Sabers acquired blueliner Bowen Byram from the Colorado Avalanche earlier in the day for center Casey Mittelstadt. Byram, 22, has eight goals and 20 points in 55 games this season. The NHL trade deadline is set for Friday at 3 pm ET.


HAPPIER IN THE WEST

The Leafs lead the NHL with a 23-6-2 record against Western Conference teams, but were just 12-12-6 against the East heading into Wednesday.


UNTIL NEXT TIME

Toronto visits Boston on Thursday, while Buffalo visits Nashville.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 6, 2024.

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