Say this about the Buffalo Sabres – they never stop playing.
Just ask the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Lindy Ruff’s squad scored four times in the third period, and Ales Kotalik scored a power play goal with 3.7 seconds remaining in overtime as Buffalo edged Toronto, 5-4, in a wild affair at HSBC Arena on Monday night.
Kotalik was credited with the game-winner, but it was Leafs defenseman Bryan McCabe who inadvertently knocked the puck over the goal line after Andrew Raycroft stopped Kotalik’s blast from the left faceoff circle.
“What can you say about luck on my part?” McCabe said. “I tried to clear it … it was on me. I certainly didn’t mean to put it in the net. We got into a river hockey game. They’re a quick team. We’ve seen it before.”
Toronto (2-3-2) got off to the start it was seeking, as Simon Gamache scored late in the opening period, followed by Nik Antropov’s fifth goal of the season at the 5:56 mark of the second, as the Leafs jumped out to a 2-0 lead.
But the Sabres – winners of three straight -- got on the comeback trail in the third period, when Adam Mair notched the first back-to-back Buffalo tallies in a 37-second span. Mair got the party started at the 8:12 mark, when he redirected Derek Roy’s feed past Raycroft to make it 2-1. Jason Pominville promptly tied things up when he beat Raycroft (37 saves) on a one-timer for his third goal of the season. It marked the first time the Sabres erased a two-goal deficit this season – a feat they accomplished nine times in 2006-07.
“I thought we played our best hockey once we got down by two goals,” Buffalo center Tim Connolly said. “We never gave up. We started to play desperate, play physical, and really get pucks to the net.”
But Toronto went back in front just 1:22 later, when Chad Kilger was able to deflect a pass from Antropov past Buffalo netminder Jocelyn Thibault – who made 21 saves in his Sabres’ debut -- for his first goal of the season.
Buffalo (3-2-0) erased another Toronto lead when Thomas Vanek potted his second goal of the season at the 13:02 mark of the third. The tie was short-lived, though, as Kilger put the Leafs in front again with his second goal of the night just 35 seconds later.
The Sabres, however, had yet another comeback in them, as Jochen Hecht sent the Buffalo crowd into a frenzy when he tied the game for a third time with 3:33 to play.
“We have that confidence that we can come back in any game,” Ruff said. “These games are interesting and exciting.”
Buffalo kept Raycroft busy down the stretch. The Sabres recorded 19 shots on goal in the third period, and added four more in the extra session before the game-winner was finally notched.
“It’s the strong mentality of this club,” Kotalik added. “We have a strong group in here. We never give up, and we believe in each other and work for each other.”
The Sabres conclude a four-game homestand on Friday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Leafs, meanwhile, will look to bounce back on Thursday night, when they’ll host the Florida Panthers at Air Canada Centre. Toronto has surrendered two-goal leads in back-to-back games, as it suffered the same fate in Saturday’s 6-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“It doesn’t feel too good right now,” Leafs coach Paul Maurice said. “We don’t have a lot of confidence in our defensive game right now, and it showed. We sat back, and that’s the kiss of death – especially against a team that can wind up like that.”
Sharks 4, Canucks 2
There’s nothing like a quick offensive outburst to completely change the complexion of a game.
Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo scored 3:20 apart in the third period, helping San Jose win its third game of the season with a victory at GM Place. Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov made 24 saves in the victory, and even picked up an assist when Steve Bernier erased a 1-0 deficit in the second period.
Vancouver’s power play struggled mightily in this one, as the Canucks failed to take advantage of a 5-on-3 situation that lasted 44 seconds during the opening period. Not only did the Canucks fail to score with the two-man advantage, but they were unable to record a shot on goal.
“It was a disappointing night,” Canucks captain Markus Naslund said. “We had spurts where we played OK. Louie (Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo) kept us in there in the second period, and in the third we came out and we were flat-footed. We didn’t dictate the game.”
The Canucks (3-3-0) struck first when Taylor Pyatt scored on the power play at the 3:04 mark of the second period. With Bernier in the penalty box, Pyatt drove to the net, where a blast from Brad Isbister hit the goal post and deflected off Pyatt’s leg and past Nabokov for his second goal of the season.
But the Sharks were able to capitalize on a two-man advantage of their own when Bernier tied the game at the 14:52 mark of the second. After Vancouver’s Mattias Ohlund and Willie Mitchell were both sent off, Patrick Marleau sent Bernier in on a breakaway, and the Sharks’ forward beat Luongo with a shot between the legs.
San Jose busted the game open in the final period, beginning with Pavelski’s power play tally 2:33 into the frame. After Matt Cooke was whistled for roughing, the Sharks went right to work, as Pavelski’s tally came just six seconds later. With Luongo down, Pavelski was patient and was able to put home a rebound for his first goal of the season.
“I thought the first 33 minutes, the hard-working, smart team that I remember in the second half of last year … we’ve just got to take 33 and bring it to 60,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said.
Thornton quickly made it a 3-1 game with his third goal of the season just 1:12 after Pavelski had put the Sharks ahead. Once again, San Jose took advantage of a sprawled-out Luongo, as Thornton simply waited for the Canucks’ netminder to hit the ice before slipping it past him.
Cheechoo, who entered the contest without a point in San Jose’s first five games, ended his drought at the 5:53 mark. He started the game playing on the third line, but was quickly promoted at the start of the second period. He also picked up an assist on Thornton’s goal.
“Yeah, it was frustrating,” Cheechoo said of his early-season struggles. “You never want a drought like that. You want to avoid those and be more consistent. I’d rather do that than score in bunches. I just have to keep working. I’ve been getting chances, they just haven’t been going in.”
Ducks 6, Red Wings 3
The last time Detroit visited the Honda Center, its season ended as Anaheim ousted the Red Wings from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
On Monday night, the Wings failed to get revenge.
A shorthanded goal by Samuel Pahlsson with 10:58 left in regulation broke a 3-3 tie, and Ryan Getzlaf contributed with three assists as the Ducks regained some lost confidence with a win over what was a red-hot Detroit squad.
Anaheim had entered the night with a record of 2-4-1 and was blanked by the Minnesota Wild in a 2-0 loss on home ice on Sunday night. Twenty-four hours later, the offense suddenly came alive.
"We were challenged from our performance (Sunday) night and the response was indicative of this group when their backs are against the wall, they find a way to at least give it their best," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said.
The Ducks nearly let this one get away, though, as they surrendered a 3-1 lead thanks to second-period goals by Henrik Zetterberg and Brian Rafalski that came less than two minutes apart.
But the Ducks pulled away in the third period, beginning with Pahlsson’s tally. It was a far cry from what transpired on Sunday, when Minnesota’s Josh Harding made 37 saves to keep Anaheim off the scoreboard all night long.
“We had quality shots (Sunday) night and tonight we got the puck to go in for us,” Ducks forward Chris Kunitz said. “It was nice to get the win. Anytime you can take two points off the Detroit Red Wings, you’re pretty happy.”
The game-winner came with Anaheim’s Corey Perry in the penalty box after being whistled for holding. Rob Niedermayer was able to grab control of the puck from Rafalski and took off on a 2-on-1 with Pahlsson. The latter beat Dominik Hasek for his seventh-career shorthanded goal.
''I was probably the happiest guy in the arena,'' Perry said. ''It was just nice to see our P.K. come through for us. We didn't play our best game last night, so we had to come out tonight and play our style of game. That was probably one of our better games. There were a lot of guys who stepped up.''
Despite the lack of firepower possessed by the Ducks in the early going this season, Hasek wasn’t the least bit shocked by what Anaheim was able to accomplish on Monday night.
“It was exactly what we expected. Nothing surprised us,” Hasek said. “They are a physical team, and a good offensive and defensive team. Even though they didn’t score too many goals until tonight, you knew sooner or later it was coming. And, unfortunately, they scored six against us.”
Material from wire services was used in this report.