TORONTO (AP) -As the Toronto Maple Leafs fritter away valuable points, coach Ron Wilson is wondering what has happened to his top line.
Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak and Kris Versteeg were held off the score sheet during a 3-2 shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night. The trio has accounted for just two goals over the last five games - all losses - as the Maple Leafs are limping along after a hot start.
``They're not producing any offense, and in fact their effort is a little off,' Wilson said of the line. ``They don't get any offense because they're basically not working hard enough defensively.'
The team's second unit is playing like its best. Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin both scored in regulation, and Clarke MacArthur - the line's third member - also had a number of good chances against his former team.
He seemed to take the loss particularly hard.
``We just didn't finish,' MacArthur said. ``I had two or three golden opportunities. That one stings.'
The win provided some relief for the Sabres, who were approaching a crisis. The players mobbed rookie Tyler Ennis after he beat Jean-Sebastien Giguere with a nice deke in the fifth round of the shootout that snapped a five-game skid.
Buffalo's Jochen Hecht had forced overtime by scoring with 13.1 seconds remaining in regulation while goalie Jhonas Enroth was pulled for an extra attacker.
``Obviously, we were overdue,' Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. ``It's a pretty excited group to get the win.'
The Northeast Division rivals are already facing an uphill climb. The Maple Leafs (5-5-3) sit three points ahead of Buffalo (4-9-2), with two games in hand, but both are currently outside of the top eight in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Toronto has gone 1-5-3 over its last nine games.
``We're a young team and we're going to have to learn,' said Giguere, who made 29 saves. ``You don't go from 29th place in the league (last season) to a playoff spot right away. You need to learn before you get to that point.'
Enroth, a 22-year-old Swede, performed well in his third career NHL start. He stopped 23 shots in regulation in overtime before turning away four of five attempts in the shootout.
``I know what I can do and I never doubted myself,' he said.
Derek Roy, with his team-leading seventh, had the other goal in regulation for Buffalo.
Dating to last season, Grabovski had gone 20 games without scoring for the Maple Leafs. He ended the drought with a wrist shot from the point that sailed past Enroth with 16.6 seconds left in the first period.
Kulemin made it 2-0 late in the second. Shortly after MacArthur fired wide, he cycled in front and beat the Sabres goalie to the blocker side.
``I had one line producing offense and that was it,' Wilson said. ``We need more contributions from other people in a game like this, when you've got a team down on the mat. We didn't finish them off and we should have.'
Roy started the comeback by scoring with just over a minute to play in the second period before Hecht tied it late. The puck bounced off a couple of players before it landed on his stick.
It marked the second straight game the Maple Leafs blew a one-goal lead in the final period and lost in a shootout.
``It's 13 seconds left, you've got to (get rid of) the puck and not let it happen,' said veteran defenseman Tomas Kaberle. ``We had the lead in Washington (on Wednesday) and today as well, all game pretty much. It's tough to swallow.
``That's two extra points and you might need them toward the end of the season.'
NOTES: D Korbinian Holzer made his NHL debut for Toronto, replacing Carl Gunnarsson in the lineup. ... Toronto C John Mitchell played consecutive games for the first time this season. He has been a healthy scratch nine times. ... Ruff coached his 999th game for Buffalo. ... Sabres G Ryan Miller sat out a fourth straight game because of a knee injury.
The Associated Press News Service
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