BY: Jeff Schneberk @Game7overtime
Last night was a good night to be a Leaf fan. The night before was not, but last night was a really good night to be a Leaf fan. Coming off one of their worst performances of the season on Friday night, forcing their GM to make a trade, they put together one of their better showings last night and got a couple of important points in the standings.
As important, with the win, Leafs are now back in line with the NHL’s other big boys, Detroit and Boston, all tied with 24 points apiece. They all trail Tampa collectively who is in top spot with 28 points.
James van Riemsdyk was reunited with his original position and the team welcomed centreman Peter Holland to the club and it resulted in a 4-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre. Colton Orr also got into a fight with John Scott and that was nice to see that too.
The scoring almost got off to an earlier start but an apparent Leaf goal early in the first period got waived off http://www.nhl.com/gamecenter/en/recap?id=2013020294&navid=nhl:topheads. David Clarkson almost had his first goal as a Leaf but refs decided no.
Both of van Riemsdyk’s goals came shortly after the disallowed goal to give Leafs a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes. Nikolai Kulemin made it 3-0 with his first of the season late in the second period.
Jamie McBain broke James Reimer’s shutout seven minutes into the third and Tyler Ennis scored a PP goal shortly after to bring the visitors to within one goal but Mason Raymond put the game away with 1:04 left in the game with a PP clapper from the point, and they nearly had a fifth goal into an empty net and Jhonas Enroth was pulled. All in all, Leafs nearly had six goals, but only needed three.
Reimer was forced into making 32 stops and Cody Franson assisted on both of van Riemsdyk’s goals.
Van Riemsdyk spoke that night with a little relief in his voice, is much more comfortable on the wing, even though he was in the centre position (right in front of the net for both of his goals) “I’m probably a little more comfortable playing [on the wing],” van Riemsdyk. “Maybe it allows me to do some different things as far as being in front of the net a little more often. That’s a big part of my game, obviously. I’m just happy the team was able to get a win tonight.”
His goals last night were 8 and 9th of the season. He hadn’t scored previously since before the David Bolland injury a couple weeks ago in Vancouver.
“Anytime you’re struggling offensively, you’ve got to simplify it a bit and start getting to those dirty areas,” van Riemsdyk said.
Rather than trying to take faceoffs while playing centre himself, newly-acquired forward Peter Holland stepped in last night and did a pretty good job centreing van Riemsdyk and Phil Kessel for nearly 12 minutes last night.
Here is Holland with LeafTV’s Paul Hendrick http://t.co/0ISLqDcZtv.
“I thought [Holland] did OK,” Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said of Holland, who was acquired from the Anaheim Ducks earlier Saturday. “It’s hard when a young guy comes in. It’s not like we hid him in the lineup. We put him in a position to play with Kessel and van Riemsdyk. That’s what we believe in. We believe that if you acquire players or have young players, it wouldn’t be right to put them in non-offensive situations.”
Toronto got off to a much better start in the first period Saturday than in Friday night’s game at First Niagara Centre. They outshot them and dominated the play.
“The first period, we were terrible,” Sabres forward John Scott said. “We were flat. We didn’t have any energy. Ted [Nolan] came in and told us and said, ‘You guys are garbage.’ ”
In the third frame with the game on the line, and 2:46 left to play, Buffalo forward Ville Leino took a tripping penalty that led to Mason Raymond‘s power-play goal at 18:56, his seventh goal of the season.
The Leaf win snapped a three-game losing streak and stopped the Sabres’ two-game win streak.
Leafs did lose another player to injury when Mark Fraser left with a lower body injury.
D-man Carl Gunnarson led all players in ice time with 26:43 and had three hits and five blocked shots.
NOTES: Toronto assigned centre Troy Bodie to the Marlies. Leafs centre Nazem Kadri served the second game of his three game suspension for his hit to the head of Minnesota Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom and is eligible to return to Toronto’s line up Nov. 21. Maple Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly was a healthy scratch for the fifth time this season.
NEXT GAME: Leafs are next in action Tuesday night against the NY Islanders and Thomas Vanek.