March 16, 2006
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP)
|"If we have the same work ethic we had tonight we have a good chance to make the playoffs.'' -Mats Sundin |
-- The Buffalo Sabres showed they can still win a low-scoring game.
Chris Drury had two goals and an assist, and Mike Grier scored the tiebreaking goal in the third period to lead the Sabres to their eighth consecutive win, 3-1 over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.
The Sabres had scored at least six goals in each of their last four games, tying a franchise record that was last accomplished in 1982.
"That's more our game,'' Drury said. "We were able to play our style. But we'll take them any way we can get them right now.''
The Sabres improved to 15-1-2 in their last 18 games. Coupled with Ottawa's shootout loss to Boston on Thursday, Buffalo closed to within one point of the Northeast Division-leading Senators.
"It's nice to be rolling and have some confidence,'' Grier said.
The Sabres and Senators meet on Saturday night in Ottawa.
"There's no quit in this team,'' Sabres coach Lindy Ruff added. "You can't get much hotter.''
After going around Toronto defenceman Aki Berg in the left circle, Grier's first shot was stopped by Toronto goalie Mikael Tellqvist from close in. Grier corralled the rebound and banged home his seventh goal of the year with 11:46 left.
"Those are the kind of errors that have bitten us all year long,'' a frustrated Toronto coach Pat Quinn said. "That's why we're struggling for a playoff spot.''
The 11th place Maple Leafs remained five points behind eighth-place Montreal in the race for the final Eastern Conference playoff slot.
Ryan Miller finished with 27 saves for the Sabres, who last won eight straight during a franchise-record 10-game streak in January 1984.
Miller allowed 14 goals in his previous three starts, and was pulled after two periods in Buffalo's 6-5 victory over Philadelphia on Saturday. He helped preserve this win with five saves late in the third period after Drury was assessed a double-minor for high-sticking Toronto's Jason Allison.
"It always helps a goaltender when he makes a difference,'' Miller said. "I don't think I was as aggressive as I needed to be, and tonight I just wanted to have fun and play hockey.''
Drury iced the game with a short-handed, empty-netter with 59 seconds left.
Mats Sundin scored for the Maple Leafs, who had their two-game winning streak snapped. Toronto is now 4-14-3 in Buffalo since 1996.
"I thought we played as good as we've played in this rink for a long time,'' Sundin said. "If we have the same work ethic we had tonight we have a good chance to make the playoffs.''
After a scoreless first period, Drury's power-play goal gave the Sabres a 1-0 lead at 8:32 of the second.
Toronto had the possession edge in the second period, but Buffalo's collapsing defence held the Maple Leafs' shooters to the perimeter. The Sabres also blocked six shots in the period, including three by defenceman Jay McKee.
When the Maple Leafs were able to finally get the puck on net, Miller was there to stop them.
"He was strong for us, and looked comfortable,'' Ruff said about his goalie.
Sundin tied it 1-1 on a power play at 4:33 of the third, scoring his 17th of the season.
Tellqvist finished with 30 saves, and was making his third straight start in favour of Ed Belfour. Belfour received an injection in his back earlier this week to help combat some inflammation, and is expected to be sidelined at least for a week.
Notes: Sabres forward Tim Connolly didn't play because of a sore knee, and is day-to-day. Connolly originally hurt the knee in late January, and missed 12 games before returning on March 9 against Tampa Bay. ... Sabres forward Jochen Hecht left the game late in the second period and did not return with a bruised knee. Hecht limped off the ice after stopping awkwardly behind Toronto's net. ... Buffalo had scored at least one goal in eight consecutive periods until being held without one in the first period. ... Toronto forward Jeff O'Neill was a healthy scratch for the third straight game.