Toronto youngster Nazem Kadri nearly went from hero to goat in a span of 10 minutes.
The Maple Leafs, though, were able to bail the 21-year-old out and now look to win two in a row for the first time this month as they battle the New York Islanders tonight.
The seventh overall pick of the 2009 draft, Kadri had 33 games of NHL experience prior to getting recalled from the minors on Wednesday with Philippe Dupuis landing on injured reserve due to an upper-body injury. Kadri tallied a go-ahead goal 5:52 into the third period last night versus the Sabres, but also took a late tripping penalty with his club still up by just a goal.
Toronto's penalty-kill units and goaltender James Reimer, who ended with 40 saves, thwarted Buffalo's last chance however to hold on for a 3-2 victory.
"I love to have a chance to play here and make an impact," said Kadri, who scored his fourth career goal. "Getting the goal was big and I was holding my breath that whole time I was in the penalty box."
David Steckel and Phil Kessel also scored for the Maple Leafs, who haven't won two in a row since a three-game run from Nov. 22-27.
Kessel is tied for the NHL lead with 20 goals and became the first Leaf to reach that mark before Christmas since Mats Sundin in 1996-97. Kessel's 40 points are also tied for second-most in the league.
Toronto plays the first of four in a row on the road and is 9-8-0 as the guest this season, but has lost three of its last four as the visitor.
The Islanders return home after a near perfect road trip, winning the first two games of the swing in a shootout prior to last night's 4-2 setback to the Rangers.
P.A. Parenteau and Matt Moulson tallied on the power play for the Islanders, who suffered their fifth loss in seven games. New York's top line of Moulson, Parenteau and John Tavares have scored 32 of the club's 72 goals this season and head coach Jack Capuano said his team needs to improve on 5-on-5 and with secondary scoring.
"We've had a couple lines in the last few games that have scored goals, but the power play tonight, we talk about getting pucks to the net and both goals came off shots and rebounds," said Capuano.
Evgeni Nabokov allowed three scores on 24 shots in the setback, his sixth in eight decisions this season for the Isles, who played without Al Montoya, David Ullstrom, Steve Staios and Brian Rolston due to concussions, while Rick DiPitro is out with a groin issue.
New York fell to 0-2-1 in the front end of back-to-back games this season, but is 2-0 in the second games of those sets. It has lost six of its last seven at home.
The Maple Leafs recorded a point in all four of their games versus the Islanders last year, going 2-0-2. However, they have lost three of four and seven of their last 10 on Long Island.