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Maple Leafs relinquish 2-goal lead, fall to Sabres in 3rd-period collapse

Maple Leafs relinquish 2-goal lead, fall to Sabres in 3rd-period collapse

Alex Tuch had two goals in his return from injury as the Buffalo Sabres battled back from a 2-0 deficit to defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 on Monday.

Jack Quinn and Dylan Cozens also scored for Buffalo (33-28-5), which got 25 saves from Craig Anderson. Owen Power and JJ Peterka added two assists each. Cozens also set up Tuch’s second goal for a two-point night.

Auston Matthews, with a goal and two assists, William Nylander and Calle Jarnkrok replied for Toronto (41-17-8), which got 25 saves from Matt Murray.

Mitch Marner added two assists for the Leafs, who were outscored 4-0 and outshot 23-7 in over 27 minutes of action after going up 2-0 in the second.

The desperate Sabres entered 1-5-1 over their last seven games — a slump that likely means the franchise’s NHL-record run of missing the playoffs will stretch to 12 consecutive seasons — but put in a solid performance to keep their flickering hopes alive.

The Leafs, who look cemented in the Atlantic Division’s No. 2 spot heading into the post-season, beat Buffalo by a combined 11-5 score line in the teams’ two previous meetings, including a 6-3 victory on Feb. 21.

After battling back to tie the score early in the third on Tuch’s 29th goal of the season, Cozens slotted home his 26th to give the visitors their first lead.

The Sabres then went to the power play, with Tuch scoring his second of the evening off a Jeff Skinner feed for the big forward’s first 30-goal season.

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The Leafs finally woke up as the period wore on, but Anderson stopped Michael Bunting on a 2-on-0 with John Tavares.

Nylander scored his 35th from a tight angle with 61 seconds left in regulation, but that’s as close as Toronto would come despite a wild final few seconds.

Playing his 38th career game against the Leafs, Anderson was also sharp in a first period that included a couple of good looks for Matthews, who came in with 13 goals in 16 contests against the 41-year-old.

But the Toronto sniper eventually connected early in the second.

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