by Brian Wheeler
In a wide-open affair that saw eight goals scored by the Buffalo Sabres and a total of 12 in the contest, Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff moved into elite status. With the 8-4 victory over the Maple Leafs, Ruff surpassed Toronto head coach Pat Quinn for most wins behind the helm of his current team with 284.
"When the game was on the line, we were the better team on a night where a lot of weird things happened," said Ruff. "We got back and played a little more structured in our own end and didn't allow some of the chances we had allowed in the first 40 minutes."
The victory assures Buffalo a .500 record on their longest road trip of the season, holding a record of 3-2 record since beginning the tour on January 16th in Edmonton. Buffalo will conclude the six-game stretch at Atlanta on Tuesday before returning to HSBC Arena to face Philadelphia on Thursday night.
"All year, we had been battling injuries and then we lost Timmy (Connolly) in New York," said Vanek. "There are a lot of good character guys in this room. Everyone just needs to step up and we can pull out victories like we did tonight."
Vanek extended his scoring streak to two games with a pair of goals in the contest, giving him three goals in two games. The rookie has been paired with Chris Drury and Mike Grier in both games.
"I'm more of a guy that likes to put the puck in the corner, cycle out and get to the net," said Vanek. "(Drury and Grier) are great at that, so it's been a good fit."
"We had some guys step up," said Ruff of the injuries to Teppo Numminen and Connolly. "We've got some holes to fill with those two guys out, we have to try some different personnel and see what we get."
Drury, Jochen Hecht
, Brian Campbell and Jay McKee each added a goal and an assist. Second-year center Derek Roy
and Jason Pominville
each scored individual markers, while Maxim Afinogenov registered a pair of assists.
"We talked before the game we don't need all the pretty goals," said Vanek. "We just need to get the puck to the net and get some ugly goals. That's what we did tonight."
After being held scoreless on three opportunities in the first period, the Sabres power-play unit rallied to finish 3-8 on the man advantage.
"Beginning of the night started pretty tough. We gave up more opportunities shorthanded than we generated on our power play," said Ruff. "We got in sink later in the second and started to put some plays together."
Sabres rookie goaltender Ryan Miller
uncharacteristically allowed four goals but finished with 34 saves in his 15th victory. Miller had not allowed four or more goals since the third game of the season against Ottawa on October 8.
"He's been very good for us," said Ruff of Miller consistency. "I think a couple of goals, the five-on-three and backside goals, that there was nothing he could have done about them."
Poised off the right post, rookie Alex Steen receives a pass from Kyle Wellwood and fires top-shelf to give Toronto the lead four minutes into the game on the power play.
Toronto would hold the lead for eight minutes before the Sabres chased veteran goaltender Ed Belfour out of the net with a four-goal run.
Buffalo's opening two goals came via a pair of deflects off Leaf players.
Hecht tied the game 1-1 at 12:38 after his centering pass from the left corner redirected off Jason Allison's skate into the net.
Six minutes later, Roy's wristshot from the left wing grazed Andrew Wozniewski's ankle and into the short side. The marker is Roy's second goal in 17 games.
Campbell continued the Buffalo onslaught three minutes into the second after one-timing Chris Drury's pass from the high slot over Belfour's left shoulder. The marker is Campbell's eighth of the season, fifth on the man advantage and 26th point on the season.
Just 10 seconds later, Vanek finished Belfour's night. Skating down the left wing, Vanek spun and fired a blind shot between the legs of the netminder. The uncharacteristic goal was enough for Toronto head coach Pat Quinn as he immediately replaced Belfour with rookie Mikael Tellqvist. Belfour left the game making just 12 saves off 16 shots on goal.
Steen scores his second power-play goal of the night after Tomas Kaberle's shot from the left point popped out a crowd in front of the net to the rookie. Steen simple flipped the puck over an outstretched Miller.
Alexei Ponikarovsky cuts Buffalo lead to a single goal five minutes later. Floating near the right post, Ponikarovsky receives a no-look pass from Nik Antropov and beats Miller high on his blocker side from pointblank.
Pominville regained the two-goal lead for Buffalo 39 seconds later. Skating into the Toronto zone along the right wing, Pominville fights through a stickcheck by Wellwood and rips a wristshot inside the far post.
With less than four minutes remaining in the second, Alexander Khavanov tips Chad Kilger's pass by Miller for the Leafs 13th shorthanded goal of the season.
Buffalo headed into the second intermission clinging to a 5-4 lead after the six-goal second period.
On the power-play, Drury rips a one-timer from the left face-off dot into the top left corner of the net for his ninth goal on the man advantage and a 6-4 Buffalo lead.
Matching Toronto's rookie goal-scorer, Vanek scores his second of the night converting on Rory Fitzpatrick's rebound to extend the Sabres lead to three goals. Fitzpatrick's shot from the right wing deflected off Tellqvist, and was tipped by Hecht to Vanek at the left post for the wide-open net.
McKee added the icing on the win with an empty net goal with two seconds remaining in regulation.
------------------------- SCORING REPORTS
| Super Stats
| Faceoff Comp
| Play By Play
| Shift Chart GAME BLOG:
0-1 (4:08): Poised off the right post, rookie Alex Steen receives a pass from Kyle Wellwood and fires top-shelf to give Toronto the early lead. The goal is Steen's 12th of the season. Wellwood and Leafs captain Mats Sundin record the assists.
1-1 (12:38): Jochen Hecht
's centering pass from the left corner deflects off the skates of Jason Allison past Ed Belfour. The goal is Hecht's 13th of the season. Paul Gaustad and Maxim Afinogenov get the hlepers.
2-1 (18:12): After receiving a long, cross-ice pass from Afinogenov, Derek Roy
's wristshot from the right face-off dot redirects off Andrew Wozniewski's ankle and into the shortside of the net. The goal is Roy's fifth of the season and is just his second goal in 17 games. Afinogenov and Jay McKee record the assists. Period 2
3-1 (3:11): Brian Campbell one-times Chris Drury's pass from the high slot over the right shoulder of Ed Belfour. The goal is Campbell's eighth of the season, fifth on the man advantage and his 26th point of the season. Drury and Jason Pominville
get the helpers.
4-1 (3:21): Just 10 seconds later, Thomas Vanek
skates below the left face-off circle, spins and fires a blind shot between the legs of Belfour. Belfour is replaced by Mikael Tellqvist. The goal is Vanek's 14th of the season. The goal is unassisted.
4-2 (8:04): Alex Steen notches his second power-play goal of the night after Kaberle's shot redirects through a crowd in front of the net to the rookie at the right post. The goal is Toronto's 13th on with a 5-on-3 advantage (leads NHL) and Steen's 13th of the season. Kyle Wellwood and Tomas Kaberle record the assists.
4-3 (13:17): Alexei Ponikarovsky receives a no-look pass from Nik Antropov and snaps a wristshot over the blocker of Ryan Miller
from about seven feet out. The goal is Ponikarovsky's 12th of the season. Antropov and Ken Klee register the assists.
5-3 (13:36): Jason Pominville
fights off Kyle Wellwood along the right wing and rips a wristshot inside the far post to regain the two-goal Buffalo lead. The goal is Pominville's 10th of the season.
5-4 (16:20): Crashing the net, Alexander Khavanov tips Chad Kilgers pass from the left wing past Miller for his fourth goal of the season. The shorthanded goal is the Leafs 13th of the season. Kilger and Mats Sundin get the helpers. Period 3
6-4 (6:18): Chris Drury one-times Ales Kotalik's pass from the left face-off dot into the top left corner of the net. The goal is Drury's ninth on the man advantage and 17th of the season. Kotalik and Campbell record the assists.
7-4 (12:47): Rookie Thomas Vanek
scores his second of the night after slapping Rory Fitzpatrick's rebound into the back of the back of the net. Fitzpatrick's shot from the right wing deflected off Tellqvist and was tipped by Jochen Hecht
to Vanek at the left post. The goal is Vanek's ninth on the man advantage, 15th of the season and third in two games. Hecht and Fitzpatrick get the helpers.
8-4 (19:58): Jay McKee scores the empty net goal.
Quotes courtesy of WGR 550-AM, the official radio station of the Buffalo Sabres.