BUFFALO, N.Y. – Matt Frattin was left off Toronto’s opening-night roster. Once he gained a spot, he started doing all he could to keep it.
Frattin scored twice, including the winning goal with 1.5 seconds left in overtime, to lift the Maple Leafs over the Buffalo Sabres 4-3 on Tuesday night.
Since being called up from the AHL Toronto Marlies last Thursday, Frattin has three goals. The win against the Sabres marked the first multigoal game of his NHL career.
On the winning goal, Frattin skated in from the left circle and wristed a shot over the shoulder of Sabres goalie Ryan Miller. With time winding down, many players might have played the puck a little more conservatively to settle for a shootout—but not Frattin.
“If there’s still time on the clock, there’s still time to score,” Frattin said. “Whenever you have an opportunity to score a goal, you’ve got to go for it.”
Toronto coach Randy Carlyle marveled at the play.
“You have to feel fortunate to get the extra point,” Carlyle said. “It was a great individual effort to push the puck. He put it into the only place he could go.”
Miller was despondent, sitting at his locker and staring straight ahead for several minutes before speaking with reporters.
“I let the guys down on that one. It was a stupid decision,” Miller said. “I didn’t take anything away. I gave him too much room and made a poor choice.”
Jay McClement and Cody Franson also scored for Toronto, which snapped a two-game skid. James Reimer made 29 saves for the Maple Leafs.
Jason Pominville, Andrej Sekera and Mikhail Grigorenko scored for Buffalo, which lost its fourth straight. Miller stopped 20 shots.
Grigorenko, the Sabres’ first-round choice in the 2012 draft, tied it 3-all at 7:10 of the third period with a deftly placed backhander from the slot. He made amends for being on the ice for the first three Toronto goals.
By playing in his sixth NHL game, the 18-year-old’s entry-level professional contract officially began and he is no longer eligible to return to the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec junior league.
“I was really happy to score a goal, but we lost the game,” Grigorenko said. “So I feel bad.”
The Sabres were also sombre knowing that forward Patrick Kaleta was taken to the hospital after absorbing a hard hit late in the first period.
Kaleta, who has a history of head and neck problems, was boarded by Toronto’s Mike Brown, who was assessed a minor penalty for the play. Kaleta skated off awkwardly with 2:26 left in the period and did not return.
“It’s a neck injury,” Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. “He was X-rayed here and they took a precaution. They took him for some further tests. I have no update.”
The NHL has made hits from behind a point of emphasis in recent years, but Ruff didn’t think Brown’s hit was dirty.
“I thought he was sideways,” Ruff said. “Some of the obligation is on the player (being hit). He wasn’t defenceless. It’s a tough area. It wasn’t a blatant run a guy from behind.”
Brown, who fought Buffalo’s Mike Weber immediately after the hit, also left the game early. He played one shift in the second period before ending his night due to what Carlyle termed an “upper-body injury.”
McClement opened the scoring midway through the first period, scooping in a rebound after a shot by Nazem Kadri hit the crossbar.
Pominville tied it 5 minutes later, connecting on a wrist shot from the slot during a power play. Sekera put the Sabres up 2-1 early in the second period when he sneaked in from the blue line, took a drop pass from Drew Stafford and beat Reimer on the backhand.
Frattin tied it 72 seconds later, banging in a rebound. Franson put the Maple Leafs up 3-2 at the 6:21 mark, connecting on a slap shot from the right point.
Late in the second period, the teams traded fine opportunities but came up empty. Franson clanged a shot off the post and Buffalo’s Steve Ott was foiled on a breakaway by Reimer.
NOTES: Toronto played without Clarke MacArthur, who cut his pinkie Saturday against the New York Rangers, and Mike Komisarek, who had a sliver of fiberglass removed from his eye after practice on Monday. … Grigorenko had 29 goals and 50 points in 32 games with the Remparts. … Since moving into their current arena in 1996, Buffalo is 29-9-5 at home against Toronto and has outscored the Maple Leafs 155-101. … Buffalo defencemen Weber and T.J. Brennan each made their season debuts.