By: David Alter
BUFFALO — The Maple Leafs woes on the penalty kill reached an all-new low this season, as they gave up three power-play goals to the opposition in a 5-4 loss to the Buffalo Sabres.
The Maple Leafs came out flying in the first period with several opportunities and all appeared to be going well. They would open the scoring in the second frame, when Joffrey Lupul burried his 14th from Phil Kessel. The lead was short-lived when Drew Stafford tied it up on a power-play, after Carl Gunnarsson was given two minutes for holding.
With the game tied up at two’s later in that frame, the Leafs took a pair of minor penalties (Clarke MacArthur tripping, and Philippe Dupuis Hi-Sticking) just 12 seconds apart. That allowed the Sabres to take over with Tyler Ennis giving Buffalo the go-ahead goal on the five-on-three.
Only down a goal, a busy second period winded down with Dion Phaneuf drilling Zack Kassian into the boards. Leading his team in ice-time at the point of the infraction, Phaneuf was given a five miniute major for boarding and a game-misconduct.
Still, with a two-goal deficit and without their top defenseman the Maple Leafs looked deflated until they were gifted a penalty shot opportunity when Nik Kulemin was taken down. Riding a streak of 23 games without a goal, Kulemin beat Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller to put the game within reach.
Back and forth the Sabres would restore a two-goal lead before the Leafs would cut it to one, and it would stay that way.
While there are several lapses that you can point to, this game was lost on the PK. Several penalties led to a lack of discipline and it’s starting to become a significant problem. The Leafs have gone a season-high five straight games while giving up at least one power-play goal. Their PK is ranked 30th in the league, and there has never been an NHL team in the 30-team era to ever make it to the post-season with the worst ranked PK.
The Leafs have the Canucks at the ACC, a team with the best PP in the league… This should be interesting.