Buffalo began the post-Lindy Ruff era the same way it ended, with a loss.
Just one day after firing the longest tenured head coach in the NHL, the Sabres were on the losing end of a 3-1 decision to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
After a 6-10-1 start to the season, Buffalo management decided to part ways with Ruff, who had been the head coach of the team since July 21, 1997.
Ruff left the Sabres with a record of 571-432-78-84 and took the club to the playoffs in eight of his 14 full seasons as head coach, including four trips to the Eastern Conference finals and a loss to the Dallas Stars in the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals. However, Buffalo did not reach the postseason for the third time in the last five years in 2011-12.
Ron Rolston, who had been serving as the head coach of the Rochester Americans of the AHL, was named interim coach of the Sabres for the rest of the season.
"I thought we played well in parts of the game," Rolston said. "I didn't like our second period, obviously it was the turning point."
James van Riemsdyk scored twice while Dion Phaneuf added a goal and an assist for the Maple Leafs, who have won three of their last four games. Ben Scrivens posted 31 saves in the win.
"He has been great for us this year," said Toronto head coach Randy Carlyle about van Riemsdyk. "He's a hard worker and he loves to learn about the sport. He's just going to get better and better as time goes on. He has size and he can skate, those are two good qualities to have in this league."
Tyler Ennis had the lone goal of the game for the Sabres, who have dropped five of their last six games. Ryan Miller gave up all three goals on 35 shots in the loss.
Each goalie made nice saves in the first several minutes of the game, but the Sabres got on the board with 6:40 to play in the first period when Ennis brought the puck and from the top of the right circle he snapped it into the left corner for his sixth of the year.
The score stayed that way until the second period when the Maple Leafs tied the contest on a power play.
Skating on a man advantage that had carried over from the first period, Phil Kessel sent a pass from the left point to the outside right circle where Phaneuf's one-timer found the back of the net just 1:15 in.
Toronto then took a 2-1 lead with 1:56 to play in the middle stanza as Kessel flew in down the right wing and sent a slip pass into the slot where van Riemsdyk re-directed it into the net.
The Maple Leafs gave themselves some breathing space on a 5-on-3 power play. Cody Franson held the puck at the left point before sliding it over to the low right side where van Riemsdyk snapped it into the net for his 11th goal of the season with 5:32 to play.