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Sabres edge Maple Leafs in a scorefest

by Brian Hunter
If the fans at Air Canada Centre showed up Sunday night hoping to see goal-scoring, they certainly got their wish.

What they didn't get was a victory by the Toronto Maple Leafs, or a very good showing in goal from incumbent starter Vesa Toskala.

Thomas Vanek netted a pair of power-play goals and the Buffalo Sabres rallied from an early 2-0 deficit, scoring three times in the second period and four more in the third, and holding off the Leafs for a 7-6 win.

Vanek's second of the night, with 7:23 remaining, gave the Sabres a 6-5 lead. Matt Ellis provided some insurance by adding a goal 1:32 later, and it held up as the game-winner after Mikhail Grabovski beat Patrick Lalime with 1:25 to play.

Lalime was touched up for six goals on 27 shots as starter Ryan Miller got the night off. More interesting is Toronto's goaltending situation, with Toskala giving up seven goals on 24 shots. He's coming off a poor 2008-09 season and the Leafs went out and signed Jonas Gustavsson, who blanked Detroit over three periods of work in two preseason games.

Nevertheless, coach Ron Wilson announced Toskala would be his starter for Thursday's opener against Montreal, "so there's no controversy."

Clarke MacArthur, Nathan Gerbe, Jochen Hecht and Tim Kennedy also scored for the Sabres, who ended at 4-1-1 in the exhibition season.

Lee Stempniak scored twice for the Leafs, with Viktor Stalberg, Jason Blake and Nikolai Kulemin registering their other goals. Stalberg's goal was his sixth, as the sixth-round pick from the 2006 Entry Draft made his final statement in bidding to open the season with the big club.

"It's been three long weeks not only for me, but for everyone," said Stalberg, who played in eight of the team's nine preseason games, which were scheduled over the course of 12 days.

Toronto finished the preseason at 6-3, their most wins in six years.

"It's all out the window now," defenseman Luke Schenn said. "Now it's all forgotten."

Capitals 4, Rangers 3

Brooks Laich scored a goal and added an assist in the first period and Washington raced to a 4-0 lead after 40 minutes before New York rallied with a three-goal third and fell just short at the Verizon Center.

Alexander Semin, Chris Bourque and Mike Knuble also scored for the Capitals, who atoned for a 3-2 loss to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Thursday and won four of their six preseason games. Semyon Varlamov made 28 saves.

Rookies Artem Anisimov and Evgeny Grachev, along with ex-Cap Donald Brashear, led the comeback effort by the Rangers, who went 3-3-1 in exhibitions. Henrik Lundqvist made 20 saves over the first two periods before Steven Valiquette relieved in the third and stopped all four shots he faced.

Laich used a spin move to elude defender Alexandre Giroux before beating Lundqvist at 4:26 to open the scoring. He set up Semin's goal with 2:26 left in the first, with Brendan Morrison hitting the post before Semin cleaned up on the rebound.

Bourque deflected Brian Pothier's slap shot past Lundqvist 2:59 into the second and Knuble converted a Mike Green rebound just 1:31 later, seemingly turning the game into a rout.

However, Anisimov continued a stellar preseason by getting the Rangers on the board with a power-play goal at 6:52 of the third. Grachev beat Varlamov from the right circle with 7:34 remaining and Brashear made it a one-goal game with 3:58 left. New York had 20 shots in the third, but Varlamov ultimately withstood the onslaught.

"I thought he was great for the first two periods and I thought in the third period, with [Brashear’s] goal, he was so deep in the net," Boudreau said. "I thought that was a little soft. He controlled his rebounds really well. I thought we let him down a little bit in the third period."

Predators 4, Blue Jackets 2

Nashville received a pair of goals from Ryan Jones and a 36-save performance by Dan Ellis in doubling up on Columbus at Nationwide Arena.

Patric Hornqvist and Francis Bouillon also scored for the Predators, who finished up the preseason with a 4-2 record.

"I thought we did a good job," Jones said. "Coach (Barry Trotz) told us to focus on attention to detail going into the game, pucks in, pucks out at our blue line and their blue line. I thought we did a good job. We didn't have a ton of turnovers and that's key against a team that creates a lot of its offense off of turnovers."

Nikita Filatov and Rick Nash rallied the Blue Jackets from a pair of one-goal deficits, but they lost for the first time in five exhibition games, ending with a 4-3-1 mark. Steve Mason stopped 19 shots.

"We didn't play bad, we just lost the game," said Jakub Voracek, who assisted on Filatov's goal. "You know, I mean it's important, but like I said, you get 40 shots on net and you're getting scoring chances."

Bouillon picked up the go-ahead goal with 2:25 left in the second period, taking Michael Santorelli's pass from behind the goal line and rifling a shot past Mason from the left faceoff circle.

Jones, who had started the scoring in the first period, capped it as well when he redirected Cal O'Reilly's shot on a Nashville power play 1:26 into the third.

"I think the power play was really moving the puck around really well and the penalty kill was forcing guys to bad angles, clearing away rebounds and being just down right gritty. It was a great job by both special teams," Ellis said.

Lightning 5, Thrashers 1

A couple of Southeast Division teams looking to climb the standings this season met at Philips Arena, and Steven Stamkos helped Tampa Bay come out on top by scoring two of its three power-play goals.

Martin St. Louis also lit the lamp on the man advantage, Zenon Konopka and Mattias Ohlund added goals and Mike Smith stopped 20 shots for the Lightning, 4-1-2 in the preseason.

Chris Thorburn's goal in the second period was all the Thrashers could manage, as they dropped to 2-3-1. Ondrej Pavelec made 21 saves.

"Maybe it's a good thing," Atlanta coach John Anderson said. "Maybe it's a lesson learned. It's a slap in the face. It's a hard thing to take and we have to wait a whole week before we play again. Now we know what we're facing and we'll see what happens Saturday. I know we'll play harder."

The teams open the regular season in Atlanta on Saturday. Tampa finished the 2008-09 season last in the Southeast with 66 points, while Atlanta was fourth with 76 points.

Ducks 5, Kings 4

Anaheim's top line was in midseason form, as Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry combined for four goals and eight points in defeating Los Angeles at the Honda Center.

With the score tied 1-1, Ryan put the Ducks ahead to stay at 5:19 of the first period, jamming a rebound past Erik Ersberg after he stopped Perry on a wraparound attempt. Then he took a feed from Getzlaf and beat Steve Bernier with 7:56 left in the second.

"The tempo is going to pick up," Ryan said. "Toward the end of that game, we saw it a little bit. It felt more and more like regular season. Certainly, the game in Vancouver as well. You take it as a stepping stone to where you need to be to start the year a week from now."

Perry had opened the scoring for Anaheim, Getzlaf netted a power-play goal in the third and Joffrey Lupul scored what turned out to be the game-winner, giving the Ducks a 5-3 lead with 2:35 remaining.

Ryan Smyth lit the lamp twice on the power play for the Kings. Anze Kopitar also scored twice, one a power-play goal and the second with 1:13 left to cut the deficit back to one.

Jean-Sebastien Giguere made 31 saves for Anaheim, which won five of its eight preseason games.

"I like the level of talent we have," Giguere said. "Guys seem to be very enthusiastic so far. It's looking good, but that is not going to be enough and we know that. I think there is a lot of hard work ahead of this week. We need to make sure that we're 100 percent ready for next Saturday."

Ersberg made 12 saves on 14 shots in the first half of the game for Los Angeles and Bernier stopped 12 out of 15 pucks sent his way. The Kings were 4-3-1 in exhibition games.

Oilers 5, Canucks 4 (OT)

Vancouver ended the preseason without a regulation loss, but Edmonton came out on top as Tom Gilbert scored 1:57 into the extra period.

Christian Ehrhoff's power-play goal 1:16 into the third forced overtime for the Canucks, who went 7-0-2 and showed a flair for late dramatics in several games. Sami Salo and Henrik Sedin also scored with the man advantage and Kyle Wellwood had their other goal.

"These games don't really matter in the end, but it is always nice to get some wins,"
Daniel Sedin said. "We know the system really well and we all know that we can play it. We're very confident going into the season. We have a great group of guys here and we all work really well together."

Mike Comrie scored a pair of goals in the first period for the Oilers, who went ahead 3-1 when Shawn Horcoff struck on a power play with 2:26 left in the opening 20 minutes. After the Salo and Sedin goals tied things up for the Canucks, the Oilers went back in front on Jean-Francois Jacques' power-play goal at 12:53 of the second.

"He's been through a lot in the last few years with all the injuries he has had," Horcoff said of Jacques. "He has really worked hard this summer and has had a really good camp. It's good to see a guy that has been putting in so much work get a chance like this."

Nikolai Khabibulin made 23 saves in a winning effort for Edmonton, which posted a 4-3-1 preseason mark.

Cory Schneider also stopped 23 shots for Vancouver.

Material from wire services and team online media was used in this report.

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