BUFFALO — Follow the bouncing puck into the Maple Leafs’ net.
Rinse and repeat.
Four Buffalo Sabres goals came off re-directions Monday night at the KeyBank Center and the Leafs couldn’t erase the accidental damage against the second-worst club in the NHL.
The result was a 5-3 loss before a crowd that included several thousand Leafs fans and left Toronto with just two points to show for its four-game trip.
The Leafs didn’t win once after heading to Tampa Feb. 25 and now have four non-game days to mull their lot in life before the Pittsburgh Penguins visit Air Canada Centre Saturday.
There were bad bounces, sure, but the Sabres smell and there’s no way the Leafs should have lost against an outfit that has an NHL-low 10 wins on home ice.
Consider, too, the Leafs’ 34-point bulge over the Sabres before the opening faceoff. The Leafs, who play the Sabres three more times in their final 14 games, like to think of themselves as contenders. The Sabres aren’t even pretenders.
It’s the second time in 2017-18 the Leafs have played four consecutive games without winning and the first time since Dec. 31 to Jan. 2 they have lost consecutive games in regulation.
The Sabres rubbed salt into the Leafs’ wounds when Johan Larsson scored their fifth goal at 9:55 of the third. Larsson was met with absolutely no resistance from Jake Gardiner and slipped the puck past Frederik Andersen, appearing to interfere with the goaltender just before he scored.
Leafs coach Mike Babcock challenged and lost. In a fit of rage, Babcock unloaded on referees Kendrick Nicholson and Marc Joannette, which accomplished nothing.
Leo Komarov scored two goals in a game for the first time since Feb. 21, 2017, against Winnipeg and Mitch Marner scored a power-play goal late in the third. Otherwise, the Leafs didn’t do a heck of a lot to elicit cheers from their supporters.
Buffalo built a 4-2 lead heading into the second intermission as its fourth goal more or less summed up the Leafs’ night.
Ron Hainsey’s attempt to whip the puck around the end boards hit referee Nicholson and went right to Ryan O’Reilly, who beat Andersen from the faceoff circle to the goaltender’s left at 15:35 of the second.
The Sabres had a 3-2 lead at 13:30 when Zemgus Girgensons, hampered a bit but not enough by Morgan Rielly, deflected a Sam Reinhart shot past Andersen.
The Leafs had spotted the Sabres a 2-0 lead and got on the scoreboard with 7.4 seconds remaining in the first period when Komarov put a rebound past goalie Chad Johnson on a Toronto power play. It was Komarov’s second power-play goal of the season.
The game was tied at 10:48 of the second when Komarov scored after taking a pass from Matt Martin.
Sabres defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen was a pain in the butt for the Leafs all night.
When Reinhart scored to give the Sabres a 1-0 lead at 1:53 of the first period, it was on a deflection of a Ristolainen shot. Less than two minutes later, at 3:43, a Jason Pominville deflection went in off Nazem Kadri’s skate. The owner of the original shot? Ristolainen.
Kadri and Ristolainen renewed personal hostilities that included a dust-up during a game last April.
With Martin on the fourth line with Komarov and centre Tomas Plekanec, Dominic Moore was a healthy scratch.