Alex Tuch had two goals in his return from injury as the Buffalo Sabres battled back from a 2-0 deficit to defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 on Monday.
Jack Quinn and Dylan Cozens also scored for Buffalo (33-28-5), which got 25 saves from Craig Anderson. Owen Power and JJ Peterka added two assists each. Cozens also set up Tuch's second goal for a two-point night.
Auston Matthews, with a goal and two assists, William Nylander and Calle Jarnkrok replied for Toronto (41-17-8), which got 25 saves from Matt Murray.
Mitch Marner added two assists for the Leafs, who were outscored 4-0 and outshot 23-7 in over 27 minutes of action after going up 2-0 in the second.
The desperate Sabres entered 1-5-1 over their last seven games — a slump that likely means the franchise's NHL-record run of missing the playoffs will stretch to 12 consecutive seasons — but put in a solid performance to keep their flickering hopes alive.
The Leafs, who look cemented in the Atlantic Division's No. 2 spot heading into the post-season, beat Buffalo by a combined 11-5 score line in the teams' two previous meetings, including a 6-3 victory on Feb. 21.
After battling back to tie the score early in the third on Tuch's 29th goal of the season, Cozens slotted home his 26th to give the visitors their first lead.
The Sabres then went to the power play, with Tuch scoring his second of the evening off a Jeff Skinner feed for the big forward's first 30-goal season.
The Leafs finally woke up as the period wore on, but Anderson stopped Michael Bunting on a 2-on-0 with John Tavares.
Nylander scored his 35th from a tight angle with 61 seconds left in regulation, but that's as close as Toronto would come despite a wild final few seconds.
Playing his 38th career game against the Leafs, Anderson was also sharp in a first period that included a couple of good looks for Matthews, who came in with 13 goals in 16 contests against the 41-year-old.
But the Toronto sniper eventually connected early in the second.
After Marner and Alexander Kerfoot moved in on a 2-on-1, the latter booted the puck with his skate into the path of Matthews for him to chip his 31st upstairs.
Jarnkrok then doubled the advantage just over three minutes later when he fired five-hole for his 15th.
Buffalo, however, pushed back impressively with the 16 shots on target to close out the period, including Quinn batting the puck past Murray for the rookie forward's 13th.
Anderson made a nice breakaway stop on Nylander on Toronto's next shot early in the third — the Leafs went over 17 minutes without testing Buffalo's goaltender — before Tuch tied things moments later in his return.
Murray denied Tage Thompson on a break to keep Toronto level, but Cozens made it 3-2 shortly thereafter.
A sound issue at Scotiabank Arena meant there was no audio for the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" prior to puck drop, but fans stepped in a cappella-style and belted out the U.S. national anthem before the problem was fixed in time for "O Canada."
Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said before the game veteran defenceman Luke Schenn was expected in Toronto at some point Monday after his wife recently gave birth of the couple's third child in Vancouver.
Drafted by the Leafs in 2008 and traded away in 2012, the 33-year-old was reacquired from the Canucks ahead of the NHL trade deadline.
The Syracuse, N.Y., product was back in the lineup after an eight-game absence with a lower-body injury.
"Not great timing," Tuch said following the morning skating of being on the shelf with Buffalo desperately trying to stay in the playoff chase.
"Missing going to battle with the guys was heartbreaking."
The Leafs host Colorado on Wednesday.
The Sabres visit Washington on Wednesday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 13, 2023.