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Mar 30, 2024 8:34 am

Tage Thompson, Sabres take aim at Maple Leafs

Tage Thompson

After rallying from an early two-goal deficit to win their most recent game and keep their slim playoff hopes alive, the Buffalo Sabres will host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night in the second contest of a back-to-back set.

There is little room for error for the Sabres (35-34-5, 75 points), who closed to within six points of the Washington Capitals for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference following Friday’s 5-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils.

Buffalo has eight games remaining, including two against Washington — although the Capitals have two games in hand.

If Tage Thompson can continue to score goals like he did against New Jersey, Buffalo just might have a chance.

Thompson scored four goals against the Devils to boost his season total to 26. It marked the second time he’s scored four or more goals in a game in his career.

“Obviously right now, wins are what we’re fighting for,” Thompson said. “I think goals are a byproduct of that, playing the right way. I thought that’s what happened tonight.”

“When he’s feeling it like that, I mean he’s one of the best players in the world,” said linemate Alex Tuch, who had two assists to extend his point streak to seven games. “I feel like he dominates out there and just takes over games. When you’re playing with a guy like that, I’m just trying to create as much room and space and get him the puck as much as possible.”

Saturday’s game with the Maple Leafs (41-22-9, 91 points) will be the third in four nights for Buffalo, which rebounded from an ugly 6-2 loss to Ottawa on Wednesday.

“It’s a quick turnaround,” Thompson said. “Obviously when you follow a loss, it’s important to respond the right way, and I think it’s just as important to do it after a win. Everyone is feeling good right now and there’s that high in the locker room, but I think it’s important to come back down and get even keel and focus up on tomorrow’s game. Obviously it’s a big one.”

It also will be a key game for Toronto.

The Maple Leafs reside in third place in the Atlantic Division and have a four-point lead over fourth-place Tampa Bay with 10 games remaining for both teams.

Toronto bounced back from a 6-3 home loss to New Jersey on Tuesday for a vital 5-1 win over Washington on Thursday. Tyler Bertuzzi scored two goals and Joseph Woll made 23 saves to lead the Leafs.

“It was good. It was a tidy game,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said of his team’s bounce-back win. “We had a few breakdowns in the first period where I thought Woll made some good saves for us. After that, I thought we were really good and didn’t give up much.”

Auston Matthews, who missed a game with the flu, returned for Thursday’s win. He attempted 10 shots and had an assist and heads into Buffalo with a league-leading 59 goals.

“In terms of how close he was to not playing, I am not really sure about that,” Keefe said. “That was his call. He came to the rink tonight and was good to go. He didn’t come in at all this morning. It looked like he had some energy and found his way through it. … That line was good tonight.”

–Field Level Media

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