Picking up two points in two games this week does not exactly make the
Toronto Maple Leafs road
warriors. The Leafs held leads of 1-0 and 2-1, but ultimately dropped their sixth straight road game 3-2 in overtime against the Buffalo Sabres.
Picking up two points in two games this week does not exactly make the Toronto Maple Leafs a success on the road. Nor does it make them road warriors.
Especially when they have blown leads in both games.
Two nights later against the Sabres in Buffalo, the Maple Leafs held leads of 1-0 and 2-1, but ultimately dropped their sixth straight road game 3-2 in overtime.
"The breaks aren't going our way and that's when you've got to find ways to create more," said Toronto coach Randy Carlyle.
Toronto's road trip continues with a game in Montreal against the Canadiens Saturday night (7 p.m. ET on CBC, CBCSports.ca).
Carlyle has been pushing for his team to be better for 60 minutes and be more in control at both ends of the rink. While the Maple Leafs played a more solid defensive game, albeit against a weaker opponent, Carlyle wasn't about to start handing out gold stars.
"We played better, but we still made some mistakes from our systems as far as diving in when we shouldn't have and giving up too many odd-man rushes -- specifically in the second period when we got into that mode of receiving the game," Carlyle said. "We were better in the third. We got it back and did more of the things we needed to do as far as putting pressure on and getting a fore-check going, but they're going to put pressure on us."
Late in the game with the Maple Leafs shorthanded, Toronto's James van Riemsdyk raced into the Buffalo zone and made a bee-line for the net. Buffalo's Matt D'Agonstini dove and knocked the puck away, but in the process wiped JVR out. There was no penalty call on the play, which Carlyle disliked.
"Their interpretation when they came to me at the end of the game and spoke to me was that he had played the puck and he made contact with the puck; thus he is allowed to take our player out," Carlyle said. "In my mind, I didn't think it should be a penalty shot, but I did think it should be a penalty for taking the player's knees out. They didn't make the call because they were referring to it more from my point of view that it was a penalty shot we were looking for and that wasn't it. JVR didn't really have a clear lane to the net. He wasn't behind the player. D'Agonstini was basically even with him. It was more like he swiped at the puck, cross-blocked him and took him out."
Ashton back up
The Maple Leafs recalled Carter Ashton from the Toronto Marlies of the AHL to replace injured Jeffrey Lupul who is out with a groin injury. In 13 games with the Maple Leafs this season Ashton has an assist. A first round pick of Tampa Bay in 2009, Ashton had yet to score in his first 28 NHL games. In four games with the Marlies he has three goals and five points.
Against the Sabres Ashton had two hits in 5:23 ice time.
'A' for Gunnar
With alternate captain Lupul sidelined, fifth-year defenceman Carl Gunnarsson has been wearing the 'A' on his jersey through the first two games of Toronto's three-game road trip.
Can't win for losing
Maple Leafs defenceman Paul Ranger took a shot in the face in the second period, dropped to the ice, but popped up quickly and made his way to the bench for repairs. Ranger didn't miss a shift. After being a healthy scratch in back-to-back games, the veteran blue-liner has bounced back nicely providing toughness and solid defensive play in the past two games.
Ranger actually made one of the best plays of the game in the first period when he swatted a puck out of the crease that had popped over goalie James reamer and appeared to be headed into the net.
His luck wasn't all good, though. Ranger was in the penalty box when Buffalo scored its first goal and also took a late holding penalty -- a questionable call in a tight contest -- to give the Sabres a late power play.
Carlyle was upset with his defender for taking the penalty late in the game.
"It was a blatant hold by our defenceman," Carlyle said. "You can't take your hand off your stick and grab the other player. It's new rules hockey."
His penalty ended in overtime and just as he got back into the play the Sabres scored at 0:38 to secure the victory.
Moulson's ups and downs
Upon being traded to the Sabres from the New York Islanders for Thomas Vanek, Matt Moulson scored two goals in his first game with Buffalo against Dallas Oct. 28. Very good. He then went 11 games without a goal. Not so good. Overall he entered Friday's game against Toronto with 10 points in 13 games. Not bad. Vanek, by the way, had three goals and seven points in his first 10 games with the Islanders.
All of that said, Moulson feasts on the Maple Leafs. In 18 career games against Toronto he now has 11 goals including one on the power play Friday night.
Mike BrophyMike Brophy brings a wealth of hockey writing and broadcasting experience to CBC Sports, having covered junior hockey for 14 years before joining The Hockey News as its senior writer for 17 years starting in 1992. Most recently, the Burlington, Ont., native worked as a writer/commentator at Rogers Sportsnet and as co-host of The Power Play on SiriusXM. Mike has written four books, including My First Goal, featuring 50 players describing their first NHL goals.