TORONTO – An early-morning trade by the Toronto Maple Leafs paid off immediately Saturday night as the acquisition of centre Peter Holland moved James van Riemsdyk back to his natural left wing position.
Van Riemsdyk scored twice and Nikolai Kulemin picked up the game-winner as Toronto snapped a three-game losing skid with a 4-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres.
The Maple Leafs (12-7-1) placed the newly acquired Holland on its top line between Phil Kessel and van Riemsdyk. Van Riemsdyk, who has spent his entire career on the wing, looked comfortable back on the left side, scoring his eighth and ninth goals of the season in the first period. The 24-year-old had been pointless in his previous five games, four of those at centre.
“I’m probably a little more comfortable playing there,” van Riemsdyk said. “It allows me to do some different things. Being in front of the net a lot more often, that’s a big part of my game obviously.”
At 5:45, van Riemsdyk re-directed a Cody Franson point shot to open the scoring. Then at 13:35, on a power play, van Riemsdyk re-directed another Franson shot to give Toronto a 2-0 lead.
“We work on that quite a bit in practice, tipping the pucks and shooting pucks to the net,” van Riemsdyk said. “We have a little bit of that chemistry where I know where the puck is going to go. That’s all you ask for as a forward is for the puck to get to the net and I just got to tip it and hopefully it goes in.”
Kulemin made it 3-0 at 11:49 of the second period on just his third shot on goal of the season. Mason Raymond had the other goal for the Leafs.
James Reimer made 33 saves to move to 5-2-0 on the season. Jonas Enroth made 18 saves for first-career loss against the Leafs.
Jamie McBain got Buffalo (5-16-1) on the board 2:15 into the third with a slap shot, which beat Reimer glove-side for his second of the season.
With the Sabres trailing 3-1 in the third, tempers boiled over following a collision between John Scott and Dion Phaneuf. During the next stoppage in play, Phaneuf crosschecked Cody McCormick as the two exchanged words. Toronto’s Colton Orr immediately stepped in and earned himself a 10-minute misconduct.
“I kind of fell a little bit,” said Phaneuf, explaining the situation. “I obviously ran into (Scott), he’s a big man. I was just going over to kind of talk to him a little bit and obviously McCormick came in, that’s part of the game.”
Scott and Frazer McLaren each received 14 minutes in penalties on the play, ending their respective nights early after taking misconducts. A total of 30 minutes in penalties were handed out during the altercations.
Tyler Ennis got the Sabres to within one when he one-timed a Matt Moulson feed for his third of the season past Reimer at 6:11.
“We got off to a little bit of a slow start but I was more impressed with the game tonight than I was with last night,” said Sabres coach, Ted Nolan. “I thought the majority of the play was in their zone the whole third period and the last part of the second period. We have some corrections we have to make and I’m looking forward to doing that.”
Mark Fraser left the game in the first period after playing five shifts and 3:54. Post-game Randy Carlyle said Fraser suffered a lower-body injury. The Leafs defenceman has already missed 13 games this season with a knee injury.
Earlier in the day, Toronto acquired Holland and Brad Staubitz from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for defenceman Jesse Blacker and a conditional third-round draft pick. Staubitz was sent to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies.
Holland, a native of Caledon, Ontario, said he found out about the trade this morning then caught a flight from Boston arriving in Toronto at 3 p.m. local time.
“Dave Nonis gave me a call, said they were excited to have me,” Holland said. “It’s obviously really exciting to be playing with JVR and Phil. Two pretty special players. So to step in to the line-up and play with those guys is pretty fun. I thought we created some chances.”
Notes: Toronto assigned centre Troy Bodie to the Marlies. Leafs centre Nazem Kadri served the second game of his three game suspension for his hit to the head of Minnesota Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom and is eligible to return to Toronto’s line up Nov. 21. Maple Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly was a healthy scratch for the fifth time this season.