Toronto: Playing under a new head coach for the first time in 16 years, the struggling Buffalo Sabres fell 3-1 to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday.
A day after firing Lindy Ruff, who had been the National Hockey League’s longest-tenured coach, the Sabres were mostly flat in interim coach Ron Rolston’s debut and slumped to their third straight loss.
“He came in, has new ideas, new things that he wants to bring to us but he hasn’t really had time to even work on most of the things,” said Sabres captain Jason Pominville. “It’s not something that’s going to change overnight, the process is going to take time. I mean, who knows, it might take a game, it might take a couple games.”
After a decent opening period in which the Sabres built a 1-0 lead, the visitors looked out of sorts for the rest of the games and finished 0-for-3 on the powerplay.
James van Riemsdyk was credited with the game-winning goal when he stormed into the Sabres’ zone on a two-on-one and sent a Phil Kessel pass into the Buffalo net with less than two minutes to play in the second period.
Van Riemsdyk put the game out of reach late in the third period when he slid home a Cody Fransen pass while Buffalo had two men off the ice serving penalties.
Buffalo’s Tyler Ennis opened the scoring when he broke into the Toronto zone and beat goalie Ben Scrivens with a wrist shot that zipped into the top left corner of the net 13 minutes into the opening period.
Toronto drew level 75 seconds into the second when defenseman Dion Phaneuf blasted a cross-ice pass from Kessel past Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller.
Ruff, a former NHL coach of the year who took the Sabres to the Stanley Cup final in 1999, was fired after a slow start to the season left Buffalo with one of the NHL’s worst records.
During Ruff’s tenure as coach of the Sabres, there were 170 coaching changes in the NHL. In his final game as head coach, the Sabres were booed off the ice by their home fans following Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets.
Having a new voice behind the bench also took some getting used to for the Sabres, who will look to give Rolston his first win at home on Saturday against the New York Islanders.
“It was weird to have a different voice there for most of the guys that have been here for a while,” said Pominville. “Lindy has been the leader of this organisation for 16 years. It is different but it’s something that we are going to have to get used to.”