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Maple Leafs 4, Sabres 3, SO @NHLdotcom

TORONTO (AP) - Alexei Ponikarovsky is just happy he didn't fall on his face.

Ponikarovsky beat Martin Biron in regulation and a shootout to help the Toronto Maple Leafs win their fourth straight game, 4-3 over Buffalo on Thursday night.

Ponikarovsky was a surprise pick in the shootout.

``We have 23 guys on the roster,'' he said. ``I got my chance. I'm glad that I put the puck in and didn't fall on the play.''

Mats Sundin also beat Biron in the shootout, and Ponikarovsky gave Toronto the victory after Buffalo's Ales Kotalik and Thomas Vanek failed on their attempts against Ed Belfour.

``They are one of the hottest teams in the league,'' Sundin said. ``We'll take a win any way we can.''

Darcy Tucker and Bryan McCabe also scored in regulation for the Maple Leafs.

Tim Connolly, Henrick Tallinder and Jason Pominville scored for Buffalo. The Sabres had won 17 of their previous 20 games and 10 of their last 11 on the road - many of them close games.

``The math has been really good for us until tonight,'' Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said.

Buffalo failed to match a franchise record for wins in December (11) set in 1976. The Sabres will face Atlanta at home on Friday night.

``We battled back to get that point,'' Biron said. ``We were down 2-0 in the first. We slowly grinded it out. That's a big point for us, coming off our start.''

Pominville tied it at 3 on a power play with a slap shot that trickled between Belfour's pads at 8:07 of the third.

Toronto took a 2-0 lead in the first period. Ponikarovsky scored a short-handed goal with 6 minutes left, and McCabe beat Biron with a slap shot with 4:13 remaining.

Connolly poked a rebound into the net as he was being checked in front of Toronto's net, cutting it to 2-1 with 2:46 left in the period.

Tallinder tied it at 4:37 of the second after Belfour skated too far out of his net. Tucker countered 37 seconds later with a shot from in front of the net.

Notes: Toronto is 13-0-1 when leading after two periods. ... Buffalo co-captain Daniel Briere will see a doctor in Toronto on Friday to have his nagging abdominal injury re-evaluated. He has missed six straight games and 14 of the past 17. ... The Maple Leafs were without Eric Lindros (torn wrist ligament), Jason Allison (broken finger), Nik Antropov (sprained knee), Alexander Steen (dislocated thumb) and Carlo Colaiacovo (sprained wrist).

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