TORONTO -- As I type under the watchful eyes of the retired banners of the likes of Red Kelly (No. 4), King Clancy (7) and Ted Kennedy (9), greetings from high atop the Air Canada Centre for tonight's Sabres-Leafs game. Gotta love the way they display numbers here. Full pictures of all the greats. Like the ones I named and modern ones like Sittler, Mahovolich, Clark, Gilmour. It's a really, really sharp feature of this building.
(I didn't bring a camera tonight. Found this image on the Internet someone took from the seats. You can click on it for a better view. And keep in mind I'm sitting by the roof and am right at eye level of the players pictured.)
And they have lots of nice Stanley Cup banners too. Of course, none since 1967 but why quibble, right?
There's not going to be any this year either. The Leafs, in fact, are in complete desperation mode just to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004. And if they lose tonight, especially in regulation, they will drop eight points out of eighth and things will be very tough for them. The media here is making this one out to be a playoff game and there were some questions this morning about playing it like a Game Seven. Um, it's March 12. Let's not overkill it.
Out of town, Carolina is hosting Columbus in a 7 p.m. game while the Rangers are at San Jose at 10:30.
It will be Ryan Miller and James Reimer in goal here. Keep it here for more as faceoff approaches. That's likely to be in the 7:10 range (thank you, CBC).
Of note: Leopold leads all player with six shots on goal through 40 minutes. Vanek and Hecht have four. MacArthur leads the Leafs with three. ... The Leafs have won 29 of 42 faceoffs. Yikes. Sabres miss Gaustad in that area. ... Carolina still down, 2-0, in the third to Columbus. The Devils have fallen behind the Islanders, 2-1, in the third. Atlanta down, 3-1, in the third at Philly. Le Thrash are toast. ... The Leafs have to throw the kitchen sink and the dining room sink at the Sabres in the third period here. BUFFALO IS 17-1-2 LEADING AFTER TWO THIS YEAR. Toronto is 3-26-3 trailing after two.
9:07 p.m.: The puck is dropped.
15:57 left: Just no way to think the Sabres are going to hold on for an entire period like they seemed to want to do here. Great cross-ice pass by Carl Gunnarsson is gunned home from the right circle by Mikhail Grabovski. His 27th. Game tied, 3-3. Great work at the point by Phaneuf just prior to the goal.
13:24 left: Then the Sabres make a brutal play of letting Kessel loose down the right wing. He fires one home -- might have gone in off Montador. His 28th. Leafs lead, 4-3.
10:26 left: Myers for high-sticking. Leafs 0 for 41 against Buffalo on the PP. This would be quite a time to snap that.
8:42 left: Miller holding firm. Shots are 7-3 for Toronto in this period.
7:35 left: Reimer with a game-saver there, stretching to stop Boyes on the doorstep on a rebound of a Vanek slapper.
5:15 left: Grabovski fails to convert MacArthur pass on 3-on-1. What a groan went through the building. Great feed.
4:40 left: The Go Leafs Go chant is rockin right now.
3:47 left: Carolina loses to Columbus, 3-2. They will stay two points back of the Sabres pending a potential comeback in this one by Buffalo.
3:16 left: Hecht just misses Vanek feed at the goalmouth.
1:02 left: Lupul misses empty net from just inside cneter ice.
52 left: Hecht stopped.
It's over: Leafs hold on for huge 4-3 win. They're four points back. Shots were 42-29.
Of note: The Hurricanes are losing, 1-0, to Columbus after one period. The Devils, meanwhile, have a 1-0 lead through one over the Islanders -- setting an NHL record with their 16th straight scoreless first period against. Wow. The Devils can move ahead of the Leafs with a win tonight and a Toronto loss in regulation.
8:09 p.m.: The puck is dropped. And Carolina is now down 2-0 to the Craig Rivets, who come into the game with six losses in a row.
19:23 left: Kulemin has a great chance in front but the puck is stopped, by either Myers or Miller. Close call.
15:40 left: Great shift for Ennis-Connolly-Boyes, with Connolly just missing a couple of loose pucks on the edge of the crease.
14:43 left: Vanek stopped on a breakaway -- a wicked slapshot that leaked through Reimer but the goalie managed to smother.
12:25 left: Myers with a bullet from the right wing off Reimer's collarbone and he's hurtin'. Gotta keep firing.
10:30 left: Miller stops Bozak on a clean breakaway. He got in too deep.
9:50 left: Puck never left the zone and Bozak gets another chance in front. Flips it in in front of Leopold. Leafs lead, 2-1. Leopold-Montador and the trio of Grier-Parrish-Niedermayer couldn't get off the ice on that shift. And three morons two seats down from me stand up and applaud when the puck goes in. Um, what's up with THAT?
9:21 left: Shots are 25-17 for the Sabres. That's 13-10 in this period. Reimer getting the job done for the Leafs against Buffalo again.
8:56 left: The Sabres come right back to tie it up. Reimer makes one save as Sekera goes to the net to try to tip a Vanek feed but Buffalo -- finally -- converts a rebound with Hecht tapping it home. Game tied, 2-2.
4:47 left: Grabovski goes for high sticking Niedermayer at center ice.
4:29 left: Great passing in the Leafs zone by Leopold and Ennis. Leopold fires one from the point and in it goes off the left post on Buffalo's 31st shot of the night and 19th of the period. Sabres lead, 3-2.
End-2nd: Sabres lead, 3-2, through two. Shots were 20-12 for Buffalo in that period and 32-19 for the game. That's 42 shots in the middle period over the last two games for the Sabres.
Sabres starters: Ennis-Boyes-Parrish-Myers-Sekera. Goal: Miller
Leafs starters: Kessel-Bozak-Lupul-Phaneuf-Aulie. Goal: Reimer
7:16 p.m.: The puck is dropped (Thanks for nothing, CBC).
17:05 left: The "Go Leafs Go" chants are out but they just got quiet. Mike Weber floats a wrister over Reimer's shoulder thanks to the help of Grier screening in front. Weber's fourth. Sabres lead, 1-0, on the first shot of the game.
15:30 left: Reimer stops Boyes in alone on a backhand and fumbles a Leopold shot from the point. Sabres need to keep shooting. Especially after that early goal, the rookie looks shaky.
14:31 left: Sekera for hooking. Leafs have gone 0 for 40 on the power play over the last 11 games against the Sabres since March 27, 2009. Yes, I said 0 for 40.
12:50 left: Just seven seconds into the power play, Miller absolutely stoned Joffrey Lupul alone in front. Monster save. He just stopped MacArthur now and the Sabres are 19 seconds from making it 0 for 41 for the Toronto power play, worthy of being called Laffs even if the team no longer is.
12:04 left: The penalty is over. During the commercial, we see military salutes in every arena but here is a different touch: A standing ovation for six families of Toronto police killed in the line of duty since 1960. Nice.
10:16 left: Sabres have a 7-2 edge in shots. Reimer made his best save at the 11:15 mark, stopping Hecht in alone on the tail end of a 3-on-2 on a great feed from the right side by Parrish.
9:45 left: The lines at the start were Ennis-Boyes-Parrish, Vanek-Hecht-Pominville, Niedermayer-McCormick-Grier and Gerbe-Connolly-Mancari. Noticed Connolly and McCormick flipped the last couple shifts. Myers and Sekera are reunited on defense with Butler out. So are Montador and Leopold. Weber goes with Morrisonn.
9:30 left: Couple Toronto reporters on Twitter point out this is the sixth straight game the Leafs have given up the first goal. Ouch. That's not a recipe for success.
8:37 left: Old friend Clarke MacArthur drills one past Miller. Wicked slapshot. Rattles off the left goalpost through a Myers screen. It's his 20th of the year and Dion Phaneuf fishes the puck out of the net for him. Game tied, 1-1.
6:53 left: Big stop by Reimer on Connolly's deflection of Myers' wrister from the point. Shots are 9-5 for Buffalo and the crowd is back in the game now after the MacArthur goal. MacArthur's previous career high, by the way, was 17 goals for the Sabres in 2008-09.
4:44 left: Reimer is giving up too many rebounds but not this time. Stood up strong and smothered Leopold's shot from the point. Still, Sabres have to keep shooting and charging the crease to scoop up some garbage. Shots are 11-5 for Buffalo.
2:11 left: Tough hit by Phaneuf on Parrish at the Buffalo line. Morrisonn tomces over to lodge an objection. No penalties.
End-1st: We're tied at 1-1. Shots are 12-7 for Buffalo. Leafs came on much better in last 9 minutes, especially after MacArthur goal.