TORONTO — Alex Tuch scored twice, including the winner, as the Buffalo Sabres defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-4 on Saturday.
JJ Peterka, with a goal and an assist, Tage Thompson, Jeff Skinner and Jordan Greenway also scored for Buffalo (6-6-0). Devon Levi made 25 saves.
Auston Matthews registered his third hat trick of the season for Toronto (5-4-2), while Mitch Marner added a goal and three assists. Joseph Woll made 34 stops for the struggling Leafs, who have dropped four straight (0-2-2).
Toronto winger William Nylander extended his franchise-record point streak to open a season to 11 games with an assist.
Max Lajoie took Timothy Liljegren’s (high ankle sprain) spot on the Leafs’ blue line with the defenceman on long-term injured reserve after he was tripped into the boards by Bruins’ winger Brad Marchand during Thursday’s 3-2 shootout loss in Boston.
Tuch put Saturday’s back-and-forth third period to bed at 12:48 when Rasmus Dalhin’s point shot hit the big winger and caromed past Woll for his second goal of the season.
Tuch then added an exclamation point with 66 seconds left in regulation when he buried his third into an empty net after fighting off both Nylander and John Klingberg.
Down 3-2 through 40 minutes, the Leafs tied it 17 seconds into the third when Marner found Matthews in front for his 10th goal of the campaign.
Greenway restored Buffalo’s lead at 3:11 when he buried his second on a rebound after Woll made a terrific stop off Casey Mittelstadt from the slot.
But Matthews tipped home his third of the night — and 11th of the campaign in his 11th game — off a Mark Giordano point shot at 7:27 to make it 4-4 as hats rained down from the Scotiabank Arena crowd.
The hat trick was also the 10th of Matthews’ career.
Woll then made a big stop on a Peterka with Nylander in hot pursuit to keep the teams level.
Coming off Friday’s ugly 5-1 home defeat to the Philadelphia Flyers, the Sabres went up 2-1 at 6:28 of the second period when Thompson stole the puck from Marner on a Toronto man advantage and scored his sixth goal of the season — and second short-handed.
Matthews tied it on another Toronto power play at 11:22 for his ninth off a Nylander setup.
But the visitors went back in front 3-2 just 34 seconds later when Skinner blasted a slapshot upstairs over Woll’s shoulder off the rush for his sixth. Rookie defenceman Ryan Johnson, who made his NHL debut Saturday, picked up an assist.
Toronto, which entered on a three-game slide (0-1-2), opened the scoring at 12:05 of the first when Marner took a breakaway feed from Calle Jarnkrok and fired his fourth past Levi.
The Leafs took their third too many men on the ice penalty of the season later in the period, and Peterka took advantage on the ensuing power play when he snapped his fifth past Woll at 16:13.
Levi then robbed Matthews with the glove on a late man advantage to keeping things tied through 20 minutes.
KEEFE NOT PLEASED
Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe was asked before the game about the lack of a physical response from his team after Liljegren went down on a suspect sequence at the hands of a player with a checkered past.
“I hated everything about, and I’ve addressed it,” Keefe said. “It’s not what we want to be about. At times we’ve responded very well in those situations in the past. It’s about consistency.”
Nylander became the fourth Swedish player in NHL history to record points in 11 straight contests to start a campaign, joining Mats Sundin (1992-93), Henrik Zetterberg (2007-08) and Jesper Bratt (2022-23).
Marner’s goal was the 564th point of his career to move past Bob Pulford for sole possession of eighth on the Leafs’ all-time list.
Matthews’ power-play goal in the second period, meanwhile, was the 80th of his career to break a tie with Wendel Clark for fourth in franchise history.
The Sabres arrived at Scotiabank Arena in an ornery mood following Friday’s setback. The Leafs also weren’t at all happy with how Thursday played out in Boston.
Buffalo head coach Don Granato said roughly 90 minutes before puck drop that’s no surprise as clubs continue to iron things out a month into the season.
“There’s lots of teams in bad moods in this league,” he said. “About 32 of them, actually.”
Leafs: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday.
Sabres: Visit the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 4, 2023.
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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press