Maple Leafs 3, Sabres 0
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) _ Peter Zezel had a goal and assist and goaltender Jeff Reese recorded his first NHL shutout Sunday night as the Toronto Maple Leafs snapped Buffalo’s five-game unbeaten streak with a 3-0 victory over the Sabres.
Zezel scored early in the first period, Michel Petit made it 2-0 at 14:02 of the second period and Lucien DeBlois completed the scoring at 14:55 of the third for the Leafs.
Reese, making his first start since Jan. 26, faced 28 shots in recording the second shutout of the season for the Leafs, who won for the second straight night. Toronto beat the defending Stanley Cup champion Edmonton Oilers 3-2 in Toronto on Saturday.
The loss for Buffalo ended a five-game unbeaten streak. In that stretch, Buffalo had won once and tied four others.
The setback, the first for Buffalo after four ties and a win, also extended the Sabres’ winless streak on home ice to eight games (0-5-3). The last time the Sabres won on Memorial Auditorium ice was back on Jan. 22, when they defeated the Boston Bruins 6-4.
Zezel opened the scoring for Toronto with his 12th of the season. He took a pass in the slot from Gary Leeman on a Toronto power play and, with Sabres’ goaltender Darcy Wakaluk out of position, drilled the puck into the open net.
Petit scored the only goal of the second period. After Zezel won a faceoff deep in Buffalo territory, he dropped the puck back to Petit at the right point, and Petit blasted a low shot to the short side on Wakaluk.
Dave Hannan set up the third Toronto goal. He carried the puck down the left side and then passed it out in front to DeBlois, who scooped home a backhander.
The victory marked only the third time this season that the Leafs, 20th overall in the standings, have won back-to-back games. They first did it on the road Dec. 19th and 20th, beating the New York Rangers and the Washington Capitals. Then at home, on Dec. 27 and 29, the Leafs beat the St. Louis Blues and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
″It was a long time coming,″ Reese said of his first shutout. ″Winning was most important, but I tell you, with five minutes left I was thinking about it, especially after we got the third goal. The last two minutes flew by, but I wasn’t watching the club. I’m quite high right now.″
Reese said the shutout was extra special since he hadn’t played in a while.
″It means a lot,″ he said. ″I didn’t want to let anybody down. The guys really worked hard for me. Give them credit. This is a tough building to win in.″
Maple Leaf coach Tom Watt was happy to see Reese in the spotlight for a change.
″It’s great for Jeff Reese, a fellow who has been on the bench most of the year and really hasn’t had a lot of plaudits or whatever,″ Watt said. ″To get the shutout tonight, he made some good stops, especially on Buffalo’s power plays.″
Watt had the Minnesota North Stars on his mind after the game.
″It’s been a while since we’ve had back-to-back wins, but actually, in the last nine games, we’re over .500,″ he said. ″This was one of our games in hand on Minnesota in our quest to catch them. I was very happy with our defensive play. We hung in there very nice and we competed very well.″
For Buffalo coach Rick Dudley, it was another hill his struggling club failed to climb.
″It’s not from a lack of effort,″ he said. ″Confidence right now is one of our problems. Some of our players are certainly struggling.″