Van Riemsdyk scores twice, Leafs beat Sabres 5-2
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — James van Riemsdyk thought about the possibility of back-to-back hat tricks. Then again, five goals over two nights and a career milestone will do just fine.
Van Riemsdyk had two goals and an assist to lead the Toronto Maple Leafs to a 5-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night. It came after a three-goal performance one night earlier in a 6-5 shootout win over the Dallas Stars.
“Our line has been playing good for a while now, maybe not getting just rewarded with some of the bounces as we would’ve liked,” van Riemsdyk said. “So it’s nice to see our line get some bounces in the sense of being able to capitalize on some chances.”
Connor Carrick, Tyler Bozak and Patrick Marleau also scored for the Maple Leafs, and Curtis McElhinney stopped 38 shots.
With the win, the Maple Leafs picked up their third consecutive win following a four-game losing streak.
“I thought we played a pretty solid game for a back-to-back situation,” McElhinney said. “It was a big win for us.”
Van Riemsdyk set the tone early by picking up Toronto’s first two goals and hitting a career-best in the process. He opened the scoring from a bad angle 3:39 into the game as he spun at the end line and flung the puck between Lehner’s legs, which deflected off the goalie’s pad into the net.
Van Riemsdyk then set a new single-season career-high for goals three minutes later with his 31st. Left all alone in the Sabres’ end, he took his time before firing a wrist shot high to the glove side.
“He’s obviously been real hot here since the trade deadline,” Toronto coach Mike Babcock said. “I don’t know if it’s you get to concentrate on hockey and not think about the other things but he’s been good for us. He’s obviously got real good hands around the net and an important player for us.”
Sam Reinhart and Jason Pominville scored for Buffalo, and Robin Lehner finished with 33 saves. The Sabres were unable to repeat their surprising performance against the Maple Leafs from March 5, when the struggling Sabres picked up an upset 5-3 victory.
“We just can’t allow ourselves to get behind like that early in the game,” Sabres coach Phil Housley said. “It was a tale of two games. Last game we play them here, same thing happened, we got that two-goal lead. It was just a reversal tonight.”
Carrick made it 3-1 6:22 into the second period on a long shot through traffic from the point.
Bozak made it 4-1 with 5:50 remaining in the second on a terrific pass by van Riemsdyk, who spotted him all alone on the opposite side of the crease.
Reinhart got the Sabres on the board with a power-play goal with 5:31 remaining in the first. Reinhart has four goals in his past six games and 26 points in his last 26 games.
Buffalo cut Toronto’s lead to 4-2 with its second power-play goal of the game just before the end of the second. Pominville redirected Rasmus Ristolainen’s shot from the point with 58.5 seconds left in the period.
Marleau added an empty-netter with 43.6 seconds remaining.
Toronto forward Leo Komarov was injured midway through the second period after a collision with teammate William Nylander and did not return. Babcock said after the game that Komarov should be fine and may not miss any time.
NOTES: The upper-body injury to Maple Leafs starting goalie Frederik Andersen is not considered serious, Toronto coach Mike Babcock said before the game. Andersen left Toronto’s 6-5 victory over the Dallas Stars on Wednesday night midway through the second period. Toronto recalled Garret Sparks to serve as its backup against Buffalo. ... RW Kyle Okposo was scratched for Buffalo as he recovers from a concussion. ... Sabres C Jack Eichel skated Thursday morning and is getting closer to returning from an ankle injury. Eichel could return on Saturday against Chicago.
Maple Leafs: Host Montreal on Saturday night.
Sabres: Host Chicago on Saturday.
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