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NHL Saturday Roundup

Leafs collapse against Sabres Add to ...

Ron Wilson was willing to shrug off a tying goal with 13 seconds left in the third period, which led to a 3-2 shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres. But the Toronto Maple Leafs head coach was not willing to shrug off another indifferent outing by his No. 1 line, which was just as responsible for his team's fifth consecutive loss.

"That line is not producing any offence," Wilson said of the trio of Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak and Kris Versteeg. "Their effort is a little off. They are not producing goals because they are not working hard enough."

Kessel has not scored a goal in six games, although this is not all his fault. Neither Bozak nor Versteeg is providing much in the way of playmaking.

In front of the 2010 class of Hockey Hall of Fame inductees, the Leafs blew a two-goal lead at home Saturday night, coughing up two third-period goals.

"That goal hit three skates on the way to the net," Wilson said of Hecht's goal. "Those things happen. But we had only one line producing offence."

That line was centre Mikhail Grabovski and wingers Nikolai Kulemin and Clarke MacArthur. They produced both Leaf goals, including Grabovski's first of the season.

"[The goal]doesn't matter right now because we lost the game," Grabovski said.

Given the offensive woes of both teams, it was no surprise the shootout went five rounds on Saturday night, with Sabres forward Tyler Ennis scoring the winning goal.

For a couple of teams trying to prove a point - that each of them was better than they have been showing lately - the Leafs and Sabres put on an awfully dull showing in front of 19,329 yawning fans at the Air Canada Centre. It was a pedestrian game between two teams that like to talk about their speed.

Mistakes abounded in the first period, especially from Leafs defenceman Tomas Kaberle. He committed two egregious turnovers but was bailed out by his teammates each time. Kaberle made up for it late in the period when he set up Grabovski's goal, although it was not a brilliant bit of playmaking.

All Kaberle did was slip the puck over to Grabovski when both of them were standing at the Sabres' blue line. Grabovski floated a wrist shot that somehow found the net inside the post with 17 seconds left in the first period.

It was an odd stroke of luck for the Leafs, as they spent the first period missing the net and several good scoring chances, which is the main reason the Sabres wound up out-shooting them 15-9 in that 20 minutes. MacArthur, an ex-Sabre, squandered several great chances through the first two periods, including a breakaway.

The game plodded on in the second period, although Kulemin increased the Leafs' lead to 2-0.

After winning the shootout, the Sabres mobbed Enroth as if they won a playoff game, as the win will ease a lot of the unhappiness in Buffalo. Also feeling less pressure, at least for now, is Sabres' head coach Lindy Ruff. Saturday night's game marked his 999th as head coach of the Sabres. Ruff is the longest-serving head coach in the NHL (he was hired in 1997) and there was no shortage of people wondering if he will make his 1,000th game on Wednesday.

Derek Roy made the third period closer, albeit no more interesting than the first two, with a goal at 18:46 of the second. But it became distressing for the Leafs and their fans when Hecht scored the tying goal at 19:46 to send the game into overtime.

Follow on Twitter: @dshoalts

 

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