NHL Game Summary - Toronto at Buffalo
(Friday, March 23rd)
Final Score: Buffalo 5, Toronto 4
Buffalo, NY (Sports Network) - Thomas Vanek's two goals and one assist led Buffalo to a thrilling come-from-behind victory over Toronto, 5-4, in the first of a home-and-home set at HSBC Arena.
Jason Pominville had a goal and two assists for the Sabres, winners in four of their last five. Derek Roy notched a pair of assists, while Daniel Briere and Drew Stafford also lit the lamp.
Ryan Miller made 40 saves to earn the win.
Boyd Devereaux scored twice for the Maple Leafs, who have dropped three of four. Matt Stajan posted a goal and a helper, and Bryan McCabe notched his 12th goal of the season.
Andrew Raycroft stopped 29 shots in the loss.
The Sabres used a four-goal burst late in the contest to completely change momentum and win the game.
Down by three early in the third, the Sabres were jolted back to life when Vanek hammered a shot from the right circle that ticked off the far post behind Raycroft at 5:27 for a 4-2 game.
Buffalo kept the pressure on, and Briere's third chance at a stuffer try at the left side of the net finally squeaked through to cut the deficit to 4-3 with 10:42 to play.
Pominville completed the comeback when he was left alone up the slot, took a lead pass from Briere, and scored high to the glove side with 6:08 remaining.
Just 20 seconds later, Stafford tipped home a lead pass from Vanek and Buffalo gained a 5-4 edge.
"I'm pretty impressed with the comeback," said Miller. "I think they made a big error in sitting back on us after they got up in the goals. It allowed us to skate and our guys did a great job looking for holes and getting the passes. It was a nice turnaround."
Toronto furiously tried for the tying goal with Raycroft on the bench in the final minute, but the Sabres put up a roadblock at their blue line and escaped with a one-goal win.
"They don't give up, they kept plugging away," said Leafs captain Mats Sundin. "There's a reason they're where they are in the standings. I think we kept up with them pretty much the whole night. We get a chance to get back at them tomorrow."
Buffalo now holds the top overall spot in the NHL with 103 points, two better than the idle Nashville Predators.
Toronto remained two points behind Carolina and Montreal for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Buffalo struck first on the game's first power play, when Dmitri Kalinin blasted a shot from the point and Vanek tipped it home from the edge of the crease at 5:17.
Tomas Kaberle celebrated his return to the lineup by assisting on McCabe's blistering right point shot on a 5-on-3 advantage which drew the Leafs even with 1:05 to go before intermission.
Stajan snapped a 13-game goalless drought and gave Toronto a 2-1 lead by tipping home Steen's centering pass 4:11 into the second for the lone goal of the middle period.
Toronto went up 3-1 as Devereaux finished off a great cross-ice pass from Stajan on a 2-on-1 deep in the Buffalo zone 59 seconds into the third, and he picked up his second of the game just under three minutes later for a 4-1 Leafs advantage.
"I don't even think I'm able to describe it to you," said Leafs head coach Paul Maurice. "I mean the first period might have been our best period of the season. Simple plays that we are so good at stopped happening. All I can tell you is that we need to play our next game like we played the mass majority of this one."
Buffalo has won five of the seven meetings this season and 11 of the last 15 matchups...The Sabres improved to 25-9-4 this season when the opposition outshoots them...Kaberle had missed three weeks after suffering a concussion on March 2...Toronto finished 1-of-4 on the power play, and Buffalo was 2- of-7...Both teams face each other in Toronto on Saturday.
03/24 00:57:29 ET