They didn't roll over when they dropped to the bottom of the Eastern Conference in mid-February -- and they didn't give up Tuesday night when they fell behind Toronto 3-0 after one period in a game they had to win to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Instead, the Sabres saved their season by rallying from 3-0 and 5-3 deficits to beat the Maple Leafs 6-5 in overtime at the First Niagara Center.
"For the last home game of the year in the regular season, that game had everything," coach Lindy Ruff said.
Derek Roy's power-play goal 3:29 into overtime capped Buffalo's night-long comeback and gave the Sabres 88 points, the same as eighth-place Washington -- but the Capitals own the tiebreaker because they have more non-shootout wins. Both teams have two games remaining.
"I just wanted to step up and do my part," said Roy, who along with Alexander Sulzer scored two goals for Buffalo. "I told myself before the game that my part is to score goals. I told myself, 'Your job is to score goals.' "
The Sabres trailed 5-3 after Toronto defenseman Jake Gardiner scored with 9:21 remaining in regulation. But Sulzer, who had two goals in his NHL career before this game, got his second of the night with 5:03 remaining by stuffing the puck under the pad of goaltender Ben Scrivens.
That goal re-ignited the Sabres and the 18,690 fans in attendance. Buffalo put on wave after wave of pressure and tied the game with 1:53 left when Jordan Leopold somehow dug the puck out of a pile of bodies during a lengthy scramble in the crease and slid it over the goal line.
"The official (referee Mike Hasenfratz) was right there and the puck was moving around the whole time," Leopold said.
Leafs coach Randy Carlyle, who called the loss "gut-wrenching," wasn't happy that Hasenfratz, who was standing inches outside the crease, didn't blow the whistle.
"If I say what I want to say, we'd be reading about a nominal fine for the coach of the Leafs," Carlyle said. "I have no comment on what happened out there."
Needless to say, Ruff saw it a little differently.
"I think that was one of the most incredible displays I've seen, in trying to find the puck wherever it was at," he said.
"I said early in the year when we had a quick whistle (that) it all evens out. And it finally evened out."
The Leafs survived the rest of regulation to get a point, but defenseman Dion Phaneuf was called for delay of game at 1:52 when he accidentally shot the puck into the crowd, and Roy won it when he picked up the carom of Thomas Vanek's pass in the slot and whipped a 20-footer past a screened Scrivens.
"Close isn't good enough," Leopold said. "We want to get into the playoffs."
Buffalo closes the season with games at Philadelphia on Thursday and Boston on Saturday. Washington hosts Florida on Thursday and ends the season in New York against the Rangers two days later.
"This means a lot," Roy said. "It means we didn't roll over and die. Our will was better than theirs, I thought."
The Sabres still have a tough road to the playoffs -- they have to finish ahead of the Caps because Washington owns the tiebreaker with more non-shootout wins.
The Leafs, who beat Buffalo 4-3 in Toronto on Saturday in the front end of the home-and-home series, looked like they would breeze to a sweep by taking a 3-0 lead after 20 minutes. Tyler Bozak scored twice and set up a goal by Matt Frattin in the first 16:42 to give the Leafs a three-goal lead. Phil Kessel assisted on all three goals.
But Buffalo came out looking like a different team in the second period, backing the Leafs into their own zone for shifts at a time. Tyler Ennis got the Sabres on the board at 4:25 with a power-play goal, and Sulzer scored unassisted at 10:44. Only a 17-save performance by Scrivens in the middle period kept the Leafs ahead.
"We came out slow in the second period and let them take it to us," Gardiner said.
Former Sabre Clarke MacArthur converted a feed by Joey Crabb 1:28 into the third period to give the Leafs a two-goal lead again, but Roy's long power-play slapper through traffic at 2:24 cut the margin to 4-3.
"Everything went our way early," said Carlyle, "and then everything went against us late in the hockey game."
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report.
1 - 0 TOR
2 - 0 TOR
3 - 0 TOR
3 - 1 TOR
3 - 2 TOR
4 - 2 TOR
4 - 3 TOR
5 - 3 TOR
5 - 4 TOR
5 - 5 Tie
6 - 5 BUF
Power Play Stats
Power Play %
% on Road
% at Home
Interference on goalkeeper