Toronto squandered the chance to win seven preseason games for the first time dating to 1969, as far back as the records in the team's training camp media guide go. They last won six in 2003.
"I think both teams were disinterested most of the night," Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. "It's your last exhibition game. Lord knows, we've played enough of them."
One of the most popular Leafs during training camp has been Stalberg and it didn't take him long to get the fans cheering again. Standing at the top of the crease, he redirected Tomas Kaberle's pass behind Lalime at 11:24 of the first period.
The 23-year-old appeared in eight preseason games over 12 days and scored three nights in a row.
"It's been three long weeks not only for me, but for everyone," Stalberg said.
Stempniak extended Toronto's lead before the end of the first period with a tip-in.
Three Buffalo goals over a stretch of 5:35 during the second period quickly erased the lead.
MacArthur, Gerbe and Vanek all finished off nice passing plays by beating Toskala and suddenly the Leafs were back on their heels -- and trailing 3-2.
Wilson announced that Toskala, who gave up all seven goals, would be starting the season opener -- "so there's no controversy."
The deficit only lasted 30 seconds. Blake skated into the Buffalo end on a lone rush and picked the top corner while Air Canada Centre public address announcer Andy Frost was still calling out Vanek's goal.
By then, it was clear this would be a long night for the goaltenders and the back-and-forth scoring only continued.
Kulemin's first of the preseason at 16:27 of the second briefly gave the Leafs a 4-3 lead, but Buffalo countered with two of its own in the opening minutes of the third -- first, a wraparound by Hecht at 1:15 before Kennedy charged to the front of the net and knocked the puck in at 2:27.
Even though Stempniak soon tied it 5-all, Vanek and Ellis scored goals 1:32 apart to finally build a lead that would stand. Grabovski's goal made it close but a last-minute attempt to tie it fell short.
Fans cheered when a picture of Nazem Kadri was shown on the scoreboard. The Leafs prospect was sent back to the OHL's London Knights on Sunday ... Toronto forward Alexei Ponikarovsky sat out one night after being high-sticked just above his right eye ... Buffalo beat the Maple Leafs five of the six times they played last season ... Announced attendance was 18,388.
Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press
Arena: Air Canada Centre Location: Toronto, Ontario
Attendance: 18,388 (97.8% full)
Viktor Stahlberg (power play) Assist: Tomas Kaberle, Francois Beauchemin
Lee Stempniak Assist: Francois Beauchemin, John Mitchell
Clarke MacArthur Assist: Tim Kennedy, Jason Pominville
Nathan Gerbe Assist: Daniel Paille, Paul Gaustad
Thomas Vanek (power play) Assist: Jochen Hecht, Derek Roy
Jason Blake Assist: Nikolai Kulemin
Nikolai Kulemin Assist: Matt Stajan, Luke Schenn
Jochen Hecht Assist: Derek Roy, Craig Rivet
Tim Kennedy Assist: Clarke MacArthur, Jason Pominville
Lee Stempniak Assist: Rickard Wallin, John Mitchell
Thomas Vanek (power play) Assist: Derek Roy, Craig Rivet
Matt Ellis Assist: Daniel Paille, Nathan Gerbe
Mikhail Grabovski Assist: Matt Stajan, Viktor Stahlberg