The Toronto Maple Leafs held off a late rally from the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night to pick up a 5-3 win to continue their recent surge.
Toronto has now won four out of five and is 8-4-0 under new coach Sheldon Keefe. The win also moved the Maple Leafs into a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division as they jump ahead of the Florida Panthers.
Let’s take a look at three quick takeaways from the Maple Leafs’ win.
1. It was the Auston Matthews show
Matthews scored a pair of goals for the Maple Leafs to help them jump out to a 4-1 lead. His second goal is the one that stole the show as he dangled through the Buffalo defense to score this beauty.
With his two goals on Tuesday he now has 21 through the first 35 games of the season. That is a 49-goal pace over 82 games, and the best goal-per-game average his career. He has scored at a 40-goal pace in each of his first three seasons but outside of his rookie year has never been able to play enough games to hit the mark.
Now he has a real shot at 50 goals if he stays healthy.
2. Jack Eichel kept his point streak going
The bright spot for the Sabres is the fact that Eichel continued his point streak with a goal and an assist.
He has now recorded at least one point in 17 consecutive games. He also has multiple points in seven out of the past 10 games. Eichel has been the Sabres’ best player from the moment he arrived and has seen his game reach an entirely new level this season. He is playing at an MVP level and is doing everything he can to drag this team to a playoff spot.
Actually getting this team to the playoffs is going to be a real challenge, however, especially as Toronto and Tampa Bay keep gaining ground. After Tuesday’s games the Lightning now have a better points percentage than the Sabres, while Toronto is just one point back with the same number of games played.
3. Toronto’s depth players also came through
It wasn’t just the superstars making an impact for the Maple Leafs.
The fourth line started the night with an early goal when Frederik Gauthier scored his fourth goal of the season just a few minutes into the game. That line would add a second goal later in the game when Gauthier set up Dmytro Timashov‘s third goal of the season.
The Sabres had an opportunity to tie the game in the closing minutes with a late power play, but a Marcus Johansson turnover at the blue line — with a tired power play unit on the ice — resulted in a Ilya Mikheyev empty-net goal to secure the win for Toronto.