BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -The Buffalo Sabres
had just ended a tough stretch. Thanks to Ales Kotalik
's decisive shootout goal, they didn't start a new one.
Maxim Afinogenov also scored in the shootout after Chris Drury forced extra time by scoring with 39.1 seconds left in regulation in a 4-3 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Friday night.
"Desperation was a big factor," said co-captain Daniel Briere, whose Sabres won their second straight after a 2-4-1 skid. "We wanted to know we're out of our funk. You don't want to win one game and then go back on a losing streak."
It wasn't easy. The Sabres overcame 2-1 and 3-2 deficits, and also killed off a Canucks power-play in overtime.
After both teams scored once on each of their first three shootout attempts, Kotalik scored when he faked going to the forehand and lifted a backhander into the top of the net over Canucks goalie Dany Sabourin.
Kotalik decided on going with the backhand after watching how Sabourin handled the first three shootout attempts.
"I knew if I did it right, it would end up in there," Kotalik said.
Buffalo's Ryan Miller, who stopped 25 shots in regulation, then clinched the victory when he got his blocker up to stop Josh Green on the Canucks' final attempt.
Jason Pominville and Paul Gaustad also scored in regulation in helping Buffalo end an 0-3-1 skid against Vancouver - dating to Jan. 8, 2002 - and defeat one of the NHL's hottest teams
Markus Naslund, Taylor Pyatt and Jan Bulis, with a shorthanded breakaway goal, scored for Vancouver (27-19-2). The Northwest Division-leading Canucks fell to 10-1-1 in their last 12 games and also had a six-game road win streak snapped.
Coach Alain Vigneault was disappointed in the loss, particularly after Sabourin's strong performance in his fourth start of the season and first in 13 games.
Sabourin, whose career record dropped to 0-7-2, stopped 33 shots, including 13 of 14 in the final 12 minutes of regulation.
"He showed a gutsy effort for a kid who doesn't get a chance to play a lot," said Vigneault, who gave starter Roberto Luongo a rare day off. "Our whole group is disappointed we didn't find a way to get two points for him."
Drury's tying goal was the difference, coming on a pinball-type play.
With Miller off for an extra attacker, Brian Campbell's point shot deflected off of Pominville, then off the leg of Canucks defenseman Mattias Ohlund. The puck bounced to the right of the net, where Drury redirected it toward the goal, the puck dribbling in off Sabourin's glove.
"They got a bounce in front. I couldn't really see," Sabourin said. "It wasn't a pretty goal."
Some of the saves he made, though, were magnificent - his best coming with 3 1/2 minutes left. That's when Sabourin stopped Briere's shot from the point and then, while falling backward, managed to get his arms up to prevent Teppo Numminen from flipping a backhander in over him.
Whew, said Sabres coach Lindy Ruff.
"I thought when Teppo missed the opportunity, it was looking like we weren't going to get one," Ruff said.
Then, referring to Drury's goal, Ruff said: "Brian did a great job of getting it to the net, Pominville did a good job screening and Dru was there and got a bounce. We needed that."
Notes: Canucks C Trevor Linden was held out because of the flu while D Willie Mitchell (groin) missed his third of four games, after playing sparingly at Ottawa. ... The game was the Sabres' first of five this season against Northwest Division rivals, and marked Vancouver's first trip to Buffalo since a 4-2 win on Feb. 7, 2003. ... Sabres C Jiri Novotny is out indefinitely after sustaining a high ankle sprain. Novotny was hurt when he fell awkwardly after being tripped by Josh Green late in the first period.