BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Morgan Rielly scored with 12 seconds remaining, and the Toronto Maple Leafs overcame squandering a two-goal, third-period lead by pulling out a 5-4 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night.
Joseph Woll stopped 23 shots in his NHL debut, and Toronto won for the eighth time in nine outings. John Tavares, Ondrej Kase, Michael Bunting and David Kampf also scored for the Maple Leafs, who never trailed. Toronto improved to 10-5-1 following a 2-4-1 start to the season.
Buffalo overcame a 4-2 deficit with Jeff Skinner and Rasmus Dahlin scoring 59 seconds apart midway through the third period.
The Sabres were unable to force overtime after they wound up being hemmed in their own zone over much of the final two minutes in leading to the decisive goal.
Toronto worked the puck back to Rielly at the blueline, where his rising shot sailed through a crowd, hit the crossbar and had enough backspin to trickle inside the right post.
Skinner scored twice and added an assist for Buffalo, which dropped to 1-5-1 in its past seven.
Tage Thompson also scored for Buffalo in a matchup of two teams playing on consecutive nights and starting third-string goalies.
Aaron Dell stopped 21 shots in his Sabres debut after Dustin Tokarski stopped 33 shots in a 3-2 win over Edmonton on Friday night with Craig Anderson sidelined by an upper body injury. Signed as an offseason free agent, Dell opened in the AHL. He went 1-5 in six games with New Jersey last season, with the win coming in Buffalo on April 8.
The 23-year-old Woll picked up another memory in Buffalo in the arena the Maple Leafs selected him in the third round of the 2016 draft. It’s also where the player from the St. Louis, Missouri, area won a bronze medal representing the United States at the 2018 world junior championships.
Woll, who made a key kick save in the opening minute to stop Dylan Cozens, got the start with Jack Campbell getting a rest following a 30-save outing in a 2-1 overtime win over Calgary on Friday night. Starter Petr Mrazek is sidelined by a groin injury.
The Leafs appeared to take control when Kase and Bunting scored 70 seconds apart to put Toronto ahead 3-1 at 8:28 of the second period. And they led 4-2 with 10:38 remaining after Tavares tipped in Rielly’s shot for a power-play goal.
The Sabres were being out-shot 5-0 in the third period when Skinner scored his second of the game to cut Toronto’s lead to 4-3 with 9:13 remaining.
Dahlin tied it 59 seconds later with a blast from the blue line, and after Kyle Okposo dug the puck out of the corner by out-muscling two Maple Leafs players, including Mitchell Marner attempting to kick at the puck after losing his stick.
The long-time, cross-border rivals resumed their series — paused by the coronavirus pandemic — in meeting for the first time since the Sabres’ 5-2 win at Buffalo on Feb. 16, 2020.
“I haven’t missed them,” Sabres coach Don Granato said with a smile of how the Maple Leafs’ arrival in Buffalo usually brings a large number of blue-and-white clad fans.
There was one difference with only a few Maple Leafs jerseys spotted in the crowd. In the pre-pandemic days, Leafs fans would make up nearly half the crowd in Buffalo. Though the borders are open, all travelers are required to show a negative COVID-19 test — which can cost up to $200 each — taken within 72 hours to enter Canada.
SHUFFLING IN BUFFALO
Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe shuffled his lineup in giving RW Wayne Simmonds and D Rasmus Sandin a rest from playing on consecutive nights. Rookie C Kirill Semyonov played his second career NHL game, and D Travis Dermott returned after being a healthy scratch the past two games.
Maple Leafs: Face the Nashville Predators on Tuesday in the opener of a three-game homestand.
Sabres: At the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday.
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John Wawrow, The Associated Press