TORONTO — James van Riemsdyk scored two goals to lead the Toronto Maple Leafs past the Buffalo Sabres 3-1 on Thursday, spoiling the NHL head coaching debut of Ron Rolston.
Rolston, who until Wednesday was the head coach of the AHL's Rochester Americans, was hired as the Sabres interim coach following the club's decision to fire Lindy Ruff. Ruff, who also played 10 seasons for Buffalo, had been behind the club's bench since 1997 and was the NHL's longest-tenured head coach.
But the Sabres, who have dropped three straight and five of six, were booed off the ice following Tuesday's loss to Winnipeg.
Van Riemsdyk's power-play goal at 14:28 of the third – his team-leading 11th – gave Toronto breathing room after Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller stopped Van Riemsdyk with a fabulous glove save earlier on the power play.
Dion Phaneuf also scored Toronto, which won its third straight home game. Ben Scrivens stopped 31 shots for his third win in five starts since James Reimer's knee injury Feb. 11.
Tyler Ennis scored for Buffalo.
Buffalo outshot Toronto 13-10 in the first and also had the period's lone goal. Ennis got his sixth of the season with high wrist shot to Scrivens' blocker side at 13:20.
Both goaltenders were sharp as Miller made a quality save on Toronto's Leo Komarov while Scrivens twice denied Thomas Vanek with a nice split-pad save.
Phaneuf's one-timer with four seconds remaining on a power play at 1:15 of the second tied it. The goal was the 100th of Phaneuf's NHL career. Buffalo's Steve Ott put a backhand past Scrivens at 7:08, but it was disallowed because of a goalie interference penalty on Kevin Porter.
Van Riemsdyk put Toronto ahead 2-1 at 18:04, converting a nifty 2-on-1 break with Phil Kessel that beat Miller as the Leafs outshot Buffalo 15-6.
Notes: Toronto wore its third sweater for the fourth of eight games this season. ... Toronto entered the game leading the NHL in hits (476) and fighting majors (20). ... The Sabres and Leafs will meet once more this season, March 21 in Buffalo. ... Rolston has been Rochester's head coach since the 2011-12 season, having compiled a 63-44-17 record. Prior to that, he spent seven seasons as a head coach with USA Hockey's national program, leading the under-18 squad to three gold medals and a silver in four world championship appearances.