A two-goal third period lead melted away as the Maple Leafs dropped their sixth straight game, a 4-3 shootout defeat to the Buffalo Sabres at Air Canada Centre on Monday night.
Jack Eichel and Evander Kane scored less than four minutes apart in the final frame to bring the Sabres back from a 3-1 deficit, and Sam Reinhart had the shootout winner. It was the 22nd loss in the past 27 games for the league-worst Leafs (21-33-11) and fifth straight one-goal defeat.
For Buffalo (27-31-9), the victory snapped a string of six straight shootout losses.
Rookie Zach Hyman scored his first career NHL goal for Toronto, and Leo Komarov and Brad Boyes also found the back of the net.
Mark Pysyk had the other Buffalo goal, while Chad Johnson stopped 30 of 33 shots.
Garret Sparks made 24 saves for the Leafs, who remain last in the NHL with 53 points.
Komarov opened the scoring, connecting with Soshnikov 25 seconds into the first period. The two broke in on an odd-man rush against Johnson with Soshnikov drawing in Sabres defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen before feeding Komarov, who tallied his 19th goal this season.
The marker snapped a seven-game goal drought for Komarov and was just his fourth goal in the past 26 games.
Soshnikov, who landed his first career NHL assist on the 1-0 goal, was forced to briefly exit the action shortly after. He tumbled into the boards after a collision with Sabres defenceman Jake McCabe, remaining down on the ice for a few brief moments before being helped to the Toronto dressing room.
He returned to play two more shifts in the period and nearly 14 minutes in the game.
Returning from a two-game absence (upper-body injury), Boyes put the Leafs ahead 2-0 later in the opening frame when his passing attempt ricocheted off the McCabe’s skate in front.
A member of the Sabres for parts of two seasons, Boyes has eight points in his last 11 games and eight goals this season.
Pysyk brought Buffalo to within one in the second period on a goal that had to be confirmed by video review. Sparks stopped the first Sabres attempt and then appeared to halt Pysyk’s rebound with his goal-stick only to have the puck cross the line, if barely.
It was the first goal of the season for Pysyk and snapped a 40-game drought.
Hyman put the Leafs back up by two just over three minutes later, joining Soshnikov and William Nylander as rookies to score their first goal in the past week. The 23-year-old pushed a second effort attempt past Johnson with 19 seconds remaining in the middle frame.
Buffalo fought back to tie it with two third-period goals. Eichel found just enough space in the slot to beat Sparks and Kane, who benefited from a Morgan Rielly giveaway to the right of the Toronto net, scored minutes later.
The Leafs have been competitive in dropping six straight. Their last five losses have been one-goal decisions.
“I don’t think anyone here has lost sight of the plan or where we’re going,” Leafs coach Mike Babcock said Monday morning. “At the same time when the game starts we’re trying to win every single night, don’t even kid yourself.”
Monday marked only the second meeting between the Sabres and Leafs this season. The two teams, which hadn’t played since a late-October Sabres shootout win before Monday, meet two more times this month.
The action between the clubs got especially chippy in overtime with the Sabres combo of Zach Bogosian and Kane jousting with the Leafs pair of Nazem Kadri and Komarov. Kadri drew the ire of the Sabres for a near knee-to-knee collision with Eichel a few minutes earlier.
Milan Michalek made his Leafs debut, totalling one shot in nearly 13 minutes.Report Typo/Error