Skip to main content

Sabres 6, Maple Leafs 2 @NHLdotcom

TORONTO (AP) -The Buffalo Sabres emerged in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Toronto Maple Leafs came out much further back than they hoped.

The Sabres beat their Northeast Division rivals 6-2 Saturday night, and closed within a point of the eighth-place Philadelphia Flyers.

"It's pretty much us against everybody right now," said Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, who stopped 30 shots. "You go out and you worry about your own game and get your own points. You're definitely not concerned about the other teams because it's their own problem.

"You've got to worry about yourself."

The Sabres beat Carolina 7-1 at home on Friday before handing the Maple Leafs a loss 24 hours later. Next up is a game Wednesday against Tampa Bay before they host Toronto next Friday.

"(It's important) to get on a roll right now," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "This is the time of year where you scoreboard watch and look at what the teams around you are doing.

"I told the team that we've just got to focus on one game at a time, and I thought we did a good job tonight of staying focused."

Jason Pominville and Jochen Hecht each had a goal and two assists. Ales Kotalik, Drew Stafford, Dan Paille and Henrik Tallinder also scored for Buffalo.

The Buffalo Sabres' Jason Pominville, right, scores past Toronto Maple Leafs' goalie Vesa Toskala during the third period of Buffalo's 6-2 win on Saturday. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, J.P. Moczulski)

Ian White and Jiri Tlusty scored for the Maple Leafs, six points back of the Flyers.

Toronto's late season playoff drive might ultimately have been derailed by an injury to captain Mats Sundin. He strained a groin on Wednesday and was forced to miss his first game of the season.

It was just the 44th regular-season game the Maple Leafs have played without Sundin since he joined the team more than 13 years ago. His presence was clearly missed - especially after Nik Antropov left the game with a knee injury during the first period.

"(People) have a view of Mats Sundin, what he is and what he means to the team," Leafs coach Paul Maurice said. "But sometimes you don't get a glimpse of his intensity, and certainly his presence.

"He's one of the best players in the world, and a very big part of our team. I didn't get the feeling of resignation from the players, that we couldn't score or couldn't win, but when (Mats) goes down and then Nik goes down early, we get pretty small pretty quickly."

That allowed the Sabres to control the tempo throughout. They had several AHL players in their lineup because of injuries and were content to clog the neutral zone and slow the Maple Leafs attack.

"I didn't know what we would have for energy," Ruff said. "Back-to-back games. We talked about being smart, let's not give anything up.

"We gave up a few shots early, but we didn't risk a lot."

Kotalik opened the scoring at 7:06 while Buffalo was on a 4-on-3 power play. He took a pass down low from Derek Roy and beat goalie Vesa Toskala with a quick shot.

After White tied it 1-1, Hecht put the Sabres back ahead on the next shift. Buffalo briefly circled the puck around the offensive zone before Hecht redirected in Pominville's pass at 14:24.

"You never want to give up a goal right after you get one," Pominville said. "It's a momentum-swinger, you create energy that way.

"For us, I think we stopped everything they got by scoring there."

And the Sabres kept coming.

Patrick Kaleta slammed into Leafs defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo on the forecheck before the puck found its way to Stafford, who beat Toskala with a wrist shot at 17:41.

Not only did the Maple Leafs start the second period trailing 3-1, they did so without Antropov. That left Toronto without its top two scorers.

Tlusty's first goal in 19 games at 7:29 of the third period briefly got them back in it before Pominville, Paille and Tallinder put the game out of reach.

The Maple Leafs have a tough hill to climb with just nine games left.

"We're probably going to have to run the table and get some help," White said. "But we've got (Buffalo) two more times and Boston twice, too."

"We're not celebrating anything yet," Miller said. "There's still an eighth of the season left. There's definitely points out there to make some ground.

"As long as everybody's logjammed, everybody has a chance. You've got to be the team that's dedicated night in and night out."

Notes: Toskala has started 30 of 31 games. ... The teams still have two more meetings, including next Friday at Buffalo. ... Mark Bell returned to the Leafs lineup after missing 31 games while recovering from a broken orbital bone. He wore a full facemask.

View More

The NHL uses cookies, web beacons, and other similar technologies. By using NHL websites or other online services, you consent to the practices described in our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, including our Cookie Policy.