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Matthews scores NHL-leading 54th goal of the season, Leafs down Sabres 2-1 in OT

Auston Matthews scored his NHL-leading 54th goal of the season at 4:20 of overtime as the Toronto Maple Leafs downed the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 on Wednesday night.

William Nylander had the goal in regulation for Toronto (36-18-8). Ilya Samsonov made 24 saves.

Victor Olofsson replied for Buffalo (29-29-5). Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen made 25 stops.

Matthews, who had one goal in his last five games, took a pass from Mitch Marner and roofed the winner in the extra period with Samsonov making a huge glove save on Tage Thompson.

Coming off Monday’s 4-1 loss to Boston, the Leafs entered play nine points back of the Bruins – with three games in hand – for second in the Atlantic Division.

The Sabres, who beat Toronto 6-4 at Scotiabank Arena on Nov. 4 and thumped the Leafs 9-3 at home Dec. 21 when Samsonov allowed five goals on 19 shots before getting the hook, started the night 10 points back of the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot.

Nylander, who saw a 10-game point streak snapped Monday, opened the scoring at 2:29 of the second period when he took a pass from Tyler Bertuzzi and ripped his 34th goal of the season passed Luukkonen.

Olofsson tied it at 6:31 when he snapped his fifth upstairs on Samsonov off the rush.

Nylander had a couple of short-handed chances on the same penalty kill later in the period, including a shot off the post from a sharp angle and in nice solo effort Luukkonen turned aside.

Samsonov, who has rebounded nicely after his early struggles this season that included a demotion to the American Hockey League, made a nice glove stop on Alex Tuch four minutes into the third.

Luukkonen then denied Matthews at the other end from in tight before the Leafs hit another post on a scramble.

Samsonov had to be quick in the dying seconds on a point shot that changed direction in the slot to secure at least a point for the home side.

Toronto led 6-0 on the shot clock through 15 minutes of a low-event first period before Buffalo, which barring a late charge will miss the playoffs for a 13th straight season, pumped 10 consecutive attempts on Samsonov.


Leafs centre David Kampf (illnes) dressed after missing Tuesday’s practice, but defenceman Jake McCabe was under the weather and didn’t play. Pontus Holmberg was scratched by Toronto, which dressed fellow forward Noah Gregor for the first time since Feb. 21.


The Sabres acquired blueliner Bowen Byram from the Colorado Avalanche earlier in the day for centre Casey Mittelstadt. The 22-year-old Byram has eight goals and 20 points in 55 games this season. The NHL traded deadline is set for Friday at 3 p.m. ET.


The Leafs top the NHL with a 23-6-2 record against Western Conference teams, but were just 12-12-6 against the East heading into Wednesday.


Toronto is at Boston on Thursday, while Buffalo will visit Nashville.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 6, 2024.

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