By Frank Pingue
TORONTO (Reuters) - 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 visiting Sabres were mostly flat in interim coach Ron Rolston's debut and slumped to their third straight loss.
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 under 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.
In Ruff's 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.
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)
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