Toronto Maple Leafs beat Sabres 5-3

Auston Matthews

Frederik Gauthier opened the scoring for the Maple Leafs at 2:30 of the first period and later collected the secondary assist on Dmytro Timashov’s third period goal. Gauthier has goals (2) and points (2-1-3) in two consecutive games. Four (2-2-4) of his seven points this season have come against Atlantic Division teams. He has four career points (2 goals, 2 assists) against the Sabres, which is his highest point total against a single opponent.

Auston Matthews scored Toronto’s second goal of the night at 4:47 of the second period before adding the third Maple Leafs goal of the game at 17:39 of the second period. Tonight’s game is Matthews’ fifth multi-goal and 11th multi-point performance of the season. His goals stand as the 131st and 132nd of Matthews’ career, which moves past Doug Gilmour and Nick Metz for sole possession of 32nd on the Maple Leafs’ all-time goal register. Matthews’ first goal in tonight’s game was his 20th of the season, which makes him the second player in franchise history (Dave Keon – 1960-61 to 1965-66) to begin his career with four consecutive 20-goal season, per NHL Stats.

Dmytro Timashov scored the fourth Toronto goal of the night at 4:58 of the third period. Timashov has points (1-1-2) in two consecutive games. He has seven points (2 goals, 5 assists) in 10 games against Atlantic Division opposition this season.

Ilya Mikheyev scored the Maple Leafs’ fifth goal of the game into an empty net while shorthanded at 17:26 of the third period. Mikheyev has goals (2) in two consecutive games. His goal tonight is his first career shorthanded goal and the fifth shorthanded goal scored by the Maple Leafs in 2019-20.

Morgan Rielly registered the primary assist on Matthews’ first second period goal. Rielly has assists (2) in two consecutive games. His second period assist stands as his 20th assist of the season, giving him 20 assists in seven consecutive seasons to begin his NHL career. Per NHL Stats, Rielly is the second Maple Leafs defenceman (Borje Salming – 1973-74 to 1984-85) to begin his career with seven consecutive 20-assist seasons. He is tied for third among NHL defencemen in even-strength assists (14).

Mitch Marner collected the secondary assist on Matthews’ first second period goal. Marner has points (2-6-8) in five consecutive games. He has registered 13 of his 20 assists on home ice this season. Marner has seven assists in eight games against Atlantic Division teams.

William Nylander recorded the primary assist on Matthews’ second goal in the second period. He is tied for second on the Maple Leafs in primary assists (9). Nylander has 14 points (6-8-14) in 16 games on home ice this season. His 13 career points (4 goals, 9 assists) against the Sabres is his highest point total against a single opponent.

Tyson Barrie had the secondary assist on Matthews’ second goal in the second period and later had the primary assist on Timashov’s third period goal. Tonight’s game is his third multi-assist and fifth multi-point performance of the season. Barrie ranks second among Maple Leafs defencemen in assists (12). He has three assists over his last three games.

Frederik Andersen stopped 27 shots to earn his 17th win of the season.

SHOTS ON GOAL (5-on-5 in brackets)








5 (5)

10 (10)

15 (11)

30 (26)


11 (11)

13 (9)

9 (8)

33 (28)







SHOT ATTEMPTS (5-on-5 in brackets)








14 (14)

19 (19)

21 (16)

54 (49)


21 (21)

19 (14)

15 (13)

55 (48)




Record at Home

8-4-4 (16 Games)

All-Time Record vs. Buffalo

83-105-18-11 (217 Games)

All-Time Record vs. Buffalo at Home:

51-40-12-5 (108 Games)

Record vs. Eastern Conference

8-9-4 (21 Games)

Record vs. Atlantic Division

6-5-1 (12 Games)






6 (Barrie)

Shot Attempts

9 (Tavares)

Faceoff Wins

12 (Tavares)

Faceoff Win Percentage

100% (Gauthier – 5 won, 0 lost;
Spezza, Marner – 1 won, 0 lost)


5 (Muzzin)

Blocked Shots

3 (Muzzin, Rielly)


5 (Matthews)


23:28 (Muzzin)

Power Play TOI

1:41 (Five players tied)

Shorthanded TOI

2:18 (Ceci)


26 (Muzzin)

5-on-5 Shot Attempt Percentage

66.7% (Dermott – 12 for, 6 against)




Scoring first


Lead after 1


Lead after 2


Do not score a power play goal


Allow one power play goal


Score shorthanded


Outshooting opponent





The Maple Leafs went 1-for-2 on the penalty kill and went 0-for-1 on the power play tonight.

Frederik Gauthier was 2-for-2 (100%) when taking offensive zone faceoffs and 3-for-3 (100%) when taking defensive zone faceoffs.

Morgan Rielly was on the ice for a team-high 21 Toronto shot attempts-for at 5-on-5 tonight. Muzzin finished the game with a 5-on-5 shot attempt percentage of 51.2 percent (21 for, 20 against).

Morgan Rielly started 38.5 percent of his 5-on-5 shifts in the offensive zone, which was the lowest mark among Toronto skaters.

John Tavares was 7-for-11 (64%) in the faceoff circle when matched up with Buffalo centre Jack Eichel.


Friday, December 20, 7:00 p.m. at New York Rangers (Sportsnet Ontario, FAN 590)

Saturday, December 21, 7:00 p.m. vs. Detroit Red Wings (Sportsnet, FAN 590)

Monday, December 23, 2:00 p.m. vs. Carolina Hurricanes (Sportsnet Ontario, FAN 590)

Friday, December 27, 7:00 p.m. at New Jersey Devils (Sportsnet Ontario, TSN 1050)

Saturday, December 28, 7:00 p.m. vs. New York Rangers (Sportsnet, Sportsnet 590 The FAN)



On tonight’s game:

I really liked our start in the game. Once again, we find a way to play with a lead. Obviously, that's an area we want to be good at and we want to set ourselves up to win games. Certainly, the focus once again — it went beyond the third period, of course, that's when the puck goes in the net — but, to me, it gets away on us in the second period. It doesn't end up in our net, necessarily. We get two elite plays by Auston [Matthews] that give us some goals and give us a cushion there, but I didn't like a lot of our game in the second period in terms of how we took care of the puck and forced the issue a little bit. And then it just catches up with us a little bit the third period there. While at the same time, I think it gets a little bit louder in the third because the puck ends up in the net — the penalty kill goal and Eichel gets behind us there. The third goal is one that stands out to me as a real negative for us, a lot of sloppy play there. That was more of what we saw, I thought, in the second period.

On trying to balance attacking play with defending a lead:

Yeah, that's what we're talking about, we're fine with that a lot. As I've said, we've been able to play with the lead a lot here in my time I've been here. We've had the lead a lot and we've put ourselves in these positions a lot. I think in that we're showing where the next phase is for us as a team. I think the team played from behind a lot early in the season and now we're playing with a lead a lot. There's a lot of areas there we've got to be a little more purposeful and a little more intelligent with what we do with the puck. I think we have real potential to really control the game in those periods of time, but we're not there yet.

On the performance of the Nylander-Matthews-Kapanen line:

I thought they were good. I didn't like, of course, the third goal. Couldn't get the puck out and you get caught out there tired and when you get out there tired, you're going to have defensive breakdowns. But I thought they had the puck a lot more today, a lot more time in the offensive zone. The goals were elite and that's what you come to expect when he has those opportunities like that — finish — and he made no mistake. That really puts us in a position to win the game. He did his job.

On the team’s ability to win while he’s making adjustments to the style of play:

I think it just speaks to the potential of the team because we're still nowhere near what I think we can look like and what we're capable of, but we're doing a lot of good things. The penalty kill lets one in here today, but we get a huge kill late in the game. So, special teams have been better there. The power play had some looks and had some chances. I think we can get a little bit better there as well. Playing with the lead, getting the lead — a lot of good, positive things that we've seen. Yet, I still think there's a long way for the team to go and continue to grow.


On playing tonight after missing most of Saturday’s game against Edmonton:

Yeah, it was good. We didn’t skate this morning either, so I wasn’t sure how it was going to feel but thankfully it felt really good. Hopefully that’s behind me.

On the team getting off to a strong start:

I think we’re putting ourselves in good position, got up early, but we’ve got to find a way to control that lead. Still play solid defence but find a way to continue to carry the play and stay in the O-zone. That will be a focus for us but obviously anytime you get a 3-0 lead is big.

On the defence being active in the offensive zone:

It’s tough. I think we play against it and when the D is active and kind of rolling around the O-zone it’s really tough to sort out who’s who. You’re going to get some open looks, [Rielly] found me with a good pass — I think I just missed it — but it’s a lot of fun too. I think it suits our team well.


On what the team did well in transition to lead to his goals:

Well, I think for us, you get rush opportunities when you're good without the puck and in good positions. I think you just pick up the players, you're in good spots and you're able to catch them on odd-man rushes. So, a couple of those plays, especially my second goal, just a really nice play by Willy [Nylander] to get the zone entry and pull up and find me, the late guy coming in.

On if he liked the team’s resilience to keep pushing back when Buffalo gained momentum:

Yeah, I think we'd like to do a better job and not let it get as close as it did. But I think it's all about the process that we're going through to make sure that when we're playing with a lead that we're taking care of the puck and trying not to change too much in our game. Obviously, sometimes you've got to live to fight another day in certain areas of the game and on certain plays.


On what he liked about tonight’s game:

Well, I think when we come back well through the middle of the ice and get above them and let our [defence] be able to stay up, we have a great transition type of team. In the first half of the game, I think we did a lot of good things. Even on the cycle and in-zone and generating some offense and some puck possession, but I think we’d like to be a little better, especially the second half of the game. As we start to play with some more leads, which we have and is a good sign and something we want to keep doing, we obviously want to continue to take the game, control it and continue to increase our lead if we can and make the opponent have to defend. Overall, we stuck with it and a good win.

On how the game feels different when playing with the lead:

Well I think the other team has to chase it a little bit. You know, we can just stick to what we’re doing and be aggressive, but we can be patient with our game. Just really try not to give them much room or anything easy and really have to force anything. Just stay with it and build on what we’re doing well.

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