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Maple Leafs drop fourth in a row with loss to Sabres

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It was pretty obvious as early as November that Buffalo Sabres probably weren’t going to end their playoff drought this season and that it was going to be another lost year in their ongoing rebuild.

It’s been tough. At times ugly.

The exception to that has come over the past week or two as they have put together a pretty solid stretch of games that continued on Monday night with a pretty solid 5-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Buffalo has now won four of its past six games with three of those wins coming against three of the top teams in the NHL — the Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins, and on Monday, the Maple Leafs.

Five different Sabres scored goals in the win, while Jason Pominville, Sam Reinhart, Johan Larsson, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Ryan O'Reilly all had two points in the win.

For Toronto the loss wraps up what turned out to be a pretty ugly road trip that saw them lose all four games. After earning at least a point by losing in overtime to Tampa Bay and Florida to begin the trip, the Maple Leafs were blown out in the Stadium Series game at the Naval Academy against the Washington Capitals then ended the trip with Monday’s clunker.

Frederik Andersen, who has been a workhorse for the Maple Leafs in net this season (maybe a little too much), struggled on Monday by giving up five goals on the 24 shots he faced.

At the other end of the ice Chad Johnson stopped 37 of the 40 shots he faced for the Sabres in the win.

The loss does not really hurt the Maple Leafs all that much because they are pretty firmly positioned in that third spot in the Atlantic Division. They are only three points back of the Boston Bruins for second place, but have played six more games than the Bruins. They remain 15 points ahead of the fourth-place Florida Panthers.

Related: Ryan O’Reilly gets an accidental assist from the referee (Video)

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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

WATCH LIVE: Toronto Maple Leafs at Buffalo Sabres

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Toronto Maple Leafs

Zach HymanWilliam NylanderConnor Brown

Patrick MarleauNazem KadriMitch Marner

James van RiemsdykTyler BozakLeo Komarov

Matt MartinTomas PlekanecKasperi Kapanen

Morgan RiellyRon Hainsey

Jake GardinerNikita Zaitsev

Travis DermottConnor Carrick

Starting Goalie: Frederik Andersen

[Maple Leafs – Sabres preview.]

Buffalo Sabres

Zemgus GirgensonsRyan O'ReillySam Reinhart

Scott WilsonJohan LarssonJason Pominville

Jordan NolanJacob JosefsonKyle Okposo

Benoit Pouliot — Kyle Criscuolo — Nicholas Baptiste

Marco ScandellaRasmus Ristolainen

Brendan Guhle — Casey Nelson

Nathan BeaulieuVictor Antipin

Starting Goalie: Chad Johnson

Sabres’ Larsson suspended two games for cross-checking Trocheck

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The Florida Panthers’ 4-2 win against the Buffalo Sabres featured some physical moments on Thursday, with the two teams combining for 80 penalty minutes.

The NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced a hearing regarding one of the nastier moments, as Johan Larsson cross-checked Vincent Trocheck in the face. Larsson received a five-minute major for cross-checking and a game misconduct for the infraction, which came with about 35 seconds remaining in the third period.

Here’s a GIF of it:

Larsson said he wasn’t too concerned about supplemental discipline after the game, as John Vogl of the Buffalo News reports.

“I just heard something going on there, so I skated up there,” Larsson said. “The guy came right at me, and I pushed him a little bit, got a little scrum. I didn’t know I got a five. No, I’m not worried at all” about a possible suspension.

Larsson, 25, has not yet been suspended during his NHL career. That could change soon.

Update: It did indeed change, as the NHL suspended Larsson for two games:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

WATCH LIVE: Buffalo Sabres at New York Rangers

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Buffalo Sabres

Benoit PouliotJack EichelKyle Okposo

Evander KaneRyan O'ReillyJason Pominville

Zemgus GirgensonsEvan RodriguesSam Reinhart

Scott WilsonJohan LarssonJordan Nolan

Marco ScandellaRasmus Ristolainen

Jake McCabeJustin Falk

Josh Gorges — Casey Nelson

Starting goalie: Robin Lehner

[NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Sabres vs. Rangers; Penguins vs. Kings]

New York Rangers

Rick NashMika ZibanejadPavel Buchnevich

Mats ZuccarelloJ.T. Miller — Vinni Lettieri

Jimmy VeseyDavid DesharnaisPaul Carey

Michael Grabner — Peter Holland — Jesper Fast

Ryan McDonaghNick Holden

Brady SkjeiKevin Shattenkirk

Brendan SmithSteven Kampfer

Starting goalie: Henrik Lundqvist

WATCH LIVE: 2018 Winter Classic – Rangers vs. Sabres

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Rangers

Rick Nash/Mika Zibanejad/Mats Zuccarello

Michael Grabner/Kevin Hayes/J.T. Miller

Pavel Buchnevich/David Desharnais/Jimmy Vesey

Paul Carey/Boo Nieves/Vinni Lettieri

Ryan McDonagh/Nick Holden

Brendan Smith/Kevin Shattenkirk

Marc Staal/Brady Skjei

Startling goalie: Henrik Lundqvist

Rangers, Sabres take advantage of Winter Classic distraction

Sabres:

Zemgus Girgensons/Jack Eichel/Sam Reinhart

Evander Kane/Ryan O'Reilly/Kyle Okposo

Benoit Pouliot/Evan Rodrigues/Jason Pominville

Johan Larsson/Jacob Josefson/Jordan Nolan

Marco Scandella/Rasmus Ristolainen

Jake McCabe/Zach Bogosian

Josh Gorges/Nathan Beaulieu

Startling goalie: Robin Lehner

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.