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Maple Leafs outlast Sabres in shootout

by Joe Yerdon

TORONTO -- James van Riemsdyk, Joffrey Lupul, and Tyler Bozak scored in the shootout to give the Toronto Maple Leafs a 4-3 victory against the Buffalo Sabres at Air Canada Centre on Wednesday.

The Maple Leafs scored in all three rounds of the shootout against Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, ending the game when Bozak's wrister hit Miller's right pad and trickled over the goal line.

"We seem to have guys that are confident going in with their moves and the goaltenders are confident in the net," van Riemsdyk said. "It makes it a good matchup in the shootout."

James Reimer allowed a goal to Matt Moulson in the first round, but stopped Cody Hodgson in the second to help Toronto earn its League-leading ninth shootout victory in 13 tries.

"Shootouts are important points and they're huge come the end of the year," Reimer said. "Obviously regulation wins are most important, but those points are priceless."

Reimer made 27 saves through 65 minutes for Toronto (24-20-5), which has won three in a row. Phil Kessel, Nikolai Kulemin and Morgan Rielly scored for Toronto during regulation.

Miller stopped 36 shots in the loss. Matt Ellis, Matt Moulson and Cody Hodgson scored for the Sabres (13-27-6).

"Third game in four nights, on the road, being down a goal going into the third period," Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said. "I thought our third period was our best period."

A hooking penalty to Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf with three seconds left in the second period set up the tying goal by Hodgson 43 seconds into the third. Hodgson backhanded a loose puck at the side of the net past Reimer for his 10th goal of the season.

Kessel gave the Maple Leafs a 1-0 lead at 9:21 of the first period. He picked off Sabres defenseman Christian Ehrhoff's clearing attempt up the boards, skated into the slot and beat Miller, his future Olympic teammate with Team USA, with a wrist shot for his 22nd goal of the season.

"He made a nice shot," Miller said. "I didn't see [it]. Good for Phil. Get him going for the Olympics, I guess."

The Sabres tied the game at 3:21 of the second period on Ellis' second of the season. Ellis took a cross-ice pass from defenseman Tyler Myers and beat Reimer. Myers was playing in his first game after serving a three-game suspension for an illegal check to the head of New Jersey Devils forward Dainius Zubrus on Jan. 4.

"I thought his first game back was probably one of his best games all season long," Nolan said of Myers. "He played with a little pizzazz. He played with some energy and he was very aggressive."

Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons was awarded a penalty shot at 5:48 after he was interfered with on a breakaway by Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner, but Reimer stopped his shot.

However, Moulson gave the Sabres the lead 46 seconds later when he beat Reimer over the shoulder with a wrist shot from the left circle. Moulson's 15th goal of the season was set up when he stole the puck from defenseman Cody Franson in the neutral zone and came in on a 2-on-1 break.

"Yeah, it went in. It hit the webbing on the top," Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said. "When it hit the bar, it went up and it went into the webbing and then came back down."

Kulemin tied the game again 59 seconds later when he beat Miller with a high wrister of his own from the slot. It was Kulemin's sixth goal of the season; three have come against Buffalo.

"It's always an advantage if you can get three lines providing certain levels of offense," Carlyle said. "We obviously know that Bozak, Kessel, and van Riemsdyk have provided the bulk of the offense for this hockey club."

Rielly gave the Maple Leafs a 3-2 lead at 11:22 when he took a pass from Nazem Kadri and beat Miller with a wrist shot from the circle for his second goal of the season and first in 13 games.

"I just saw [Kadri] with the puck down low," Rielly said. "He's pretty crafty and he came around the net and I just kind of crept down and he made a good pass and I was able to capitalize."

Sabres forward Matt D'Agostini left the game in the first period with an upper-body injury and did not return.

"Looks like it's going to be a little while," Nolan said of D'Agostini's injury.

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