BUFFALO, N.Y. – Style points aside, Ian White gave the Toronto Maple Leafs two more points in the standings.
White’s harmless-looking wrist shot from the left point skipped off the ice just in front of Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller before bouncing over his left shoulder and in with 7:56 left to give the Maple Leafs a 2-1 victory over the Sabres on Friday night.
“You’re always surprised to see something like that go in,” said White, who has scored in two straight games to up his season total to five. “I just tried to keep the puck in at the blue-line, threw it on net, and sometimes good things happen.”
Miller agreed the goal was a bit lucky, blaming the poor ice conditions.
“It’s our home rink and I should know better. Our ice is terrible toward the end of the game,” Miller said. “It gets a little bouncy and a little rough. I have to get my body in the way.”
About six minutes before White’s goal, the Maple Leafs were able to kill off 5:44 of penalty time that started with 10 seconds left in the second period after Lee Stempniak high-sticked Andrej Sekera. Jeff Finger was then whistled for hooking with 16 seconds left in Stempniak’s double-minor, but Toronto’s 27th-rated penalty-killing unit was able to prevail after allowing just one shot on goal.
“It was a tough penalty to take,” Stempniak said. “We didn’t even let them get set up.”
Buffalo’s best opportunity came when Drew Stafford stared at a gaping net just below the left circle, but his shot went off the side of the net.
“Obviously if we don’t kill penalties we don’t win the game,” Toronto coach Ron Wilson said. “That was huge.”
Vesa Toskala made 24 saves for the Maple Leafs, and Jeremy Williams also scored to help Toronto improve to 11-12-6 with its second straight victory.
Toronto came in tied for the second-most goals allowed in the league, but have started to tighten up defensively. The Maple Leafs have surrendered two goals or less in six of their last eight, going 4-3-1 during that span.
“We still gave up a few too many chances, but they weren’t able to score,” said Toskala, who was making his eighth straight start. “But I think we’re moving in the right direction. We just keep improving as a team and trying to get better every game.”
Toni Lydman scored for the Sabres, and Miller made 31 saves. The loss snapped the Sabres’ winning streak at three.
“We did a good job of making them look good,” Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. “We had tons of opportunities but you let teams hang around you’re going to make a mistake of letting them get a goal.”
Toronto’s defence was bolstered with the return of Mike Van Ryn, who missed the last 13 games because of a broken bone in his hand and a concussion sustained when he was rammed from behind and into the boards by Montreal forward Tom Kostopoulos on Nov. 8.
Lydman opened the scoring with his first of the season six minutes into the game. The defenceman cruised into the lower portion of the left circle before letting go a wrist shot that beat Toskala.
The Maple Leafs tied it with 2:21 left in the second period on Williams’ second goal of the season. Williams took a behind-the-back drop pass from Pavel Kubina at the Buffalo blue line before skating to the top of the left circle and wristing a shot by Miller.
Williams has scored in both games he’s played this season. After being recalled from the Toronto Marlies of the AHL on Sunday, he scored in the Maple Leafs’ 4-2 win over the New York Islanders on Monday night.
Notes: The Sabres played without captain Craig Rivet (upper body). … Toronto was once again without rookie D Luke Schenn (sprained knee) and forward Niklas Hagman (head), with both missing their second game. … It was the first of six meetings this season between the two Northeast Division rivals. … Sabres C Derek Roy extended his points streak to five games with an assist on Lydman’s goal. … Lydman’s goal was just the fourth this season by a Buffalo defenceman.