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Another Northeast Blow

by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres
There's no place like the road when the Buffalo Sabres face a Northeast Division foe. Home at HSBC Arena is a totally different story.

Skating on wobbly legs on the tail end of back-to-back games, Buffalo was outrun by the Toronto Maple Leafs in a 4-2 defeat in front of a bipartisan, sellout crowd.

The loss continued the Sabres mediocrity in division play. In games where the winner possesses a four-point swing in the standings, Buffalo has an overall record of 8-7-1 and a home record of 2-5-1. Compare that with their 6-2-0 record when playing in Boston, Montreal, Ottawa or Toronto and the comforts of home are very comfortable.

"Sometimes you get the schedule, and sometimes the schedule gets you," said head coach Lindy Ruff. "There were pockets of times when we skated better, but for the majority of the time, they did."

Toronto traveled down the QEW with two advantages: fresh legs and desperation. Entering the game, the Leafs had dropped their last two games; including a 4-3 Buffalo victory in the Air Canada Centre last Saturday night.

The Sabres won a tight 2-1 decision against the Chicago Blackhawks in a game that started at 8 p.m. (EST) on Wednesday night but fatigue helped feed the starving wolves as the team couldn't maintain a rapid first period pace.

"We didn't play tight enough," said Ruff concerning his team's 22 giveaways. "We allowed some situations that we don't normally allow. When your legs aren't going your hands aren't good."

"We had a little better energy in the beginning," said co-captain Chris Drury. "Maybe as the game went on we got drained a little."

Toronto jumped on a weak backhander by Toni Lydman in Buffalo's zone and converted it into the first goal of the game.

Mats Sundin intercepted the puck and slung an across-ice pass to Jeff O'Neill for the redirection and his 14th goal of the season just 21 seconds into the second period.

"Our passing was hesitant and we had a lot of brain cramps out there tonight," said Ruff.

After only generating one shot on a five-on-three advantage, Buffalo's power-play returned to simplicity and allowed Thomas Vanek to do what he does best with a man advantage, control the front of the net.

Digging at a rebound off Jaroslav Spacek's point shot, Vanek slipped the puck between Andrew Raycroft's pads as he was being driven to the ice from behind by Bryan McCabe to tie the game 1-1 at 6:01. Raycroft finished with 22 saves.

Toronto regained the lead with their first PP goal of the game as Pavel Kubina fired over a downed Martin Biron for his second goal of the season at 15:42. Both of the defenseman's goals have come in the last three games.

Derek Roy found Drury cutting to the net to tie the game at 2:49 of the third. Drury lowered to one knee and buried the puck into a wide-open cage for his 23rd goal of the season and 10th with the man advantage.

Buffalo's power-play went two-for-six and scored more than a goal for just the second time in 22 games.

"We were happy to get a couple of goals tonight," said Adam Mair concerning the power play, "but we really need to hunker down on five-on-threes and four-on-threes. Obviously, we're trying to score but we just need to execute a little better."

Alex Steen followed Carlo Colaiacovo's backhander to the net and snapped the rebound over Biron's glove to regain the Toronto lead at 5:20 of the final frame. Biron took the loss with 24 saves.

O'Neill scored his second of the night with a wristshot into the top-right corner of the net on a three-on-two rush at 10:22
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