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Sabres End Losing Skid at Two

by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres
So much attention has been paid to the Buffalo Sabres struggling special teams play of late that it was easy to forget just how dominating the team can be at even strength.

In their third match-up with Northeast Division rivals, the Toronto Maple Leafs, missed opportunities on the power play - Buffalo went 0-5 - and improved play on the penalty kill - Toronto converted 2-8 - was overshadowed by Buffalo's five-on-five play, which carried the team to a 4-3 victory over the Leafs at Air Canada Centre on Saturday night.

Without question, Buffalo possesses the best five-on-five attack in the National Hockey League. The Sabres are the only team in the league to score 100 even-strength goals this season. The second most productive teams - Anaheim Ducks and Nashville Predators - trailed Buffalo by 15 goals entering Saturday night.

"The last couple of games, it just felt like we weren't getting the bounces that we got at the start of the season," said Daniel Briere. "Toronto came out hard playing with a lot of confidence early, but we got a couple of bounces that we haven't gotten in a while. That allowed us to sit back and say, 'We're ok. Let's relax, play the way we used to play and everything will work out.'"

"There was nothing fancy about it," said Ruff. "We got some pucks to the net and created some traffic."

Against the Leafs, all four Sabres goals came during five-on-five play. With a game in hand on Anaheim, Buffalo became the first team in the NHL to record 30 wins this season. Buffalo was out shot in the game 35-29, but made the most of their opportunities, ending the team's second two-game losing streak of the season.

"When you get on a losing streak, you get frustrated and you want to get back to winning games," said Briere. "Two games for us felt like a long time."

Dmitri Kalinin opened the scoring for Buffalo with a slapshot from the blueline over Andrew Raycroft's left shoulder for his first goal in 35 games and third of the season at 4:18.

Just 39 seconds later, Chris Drury spun at the top of the face-off circle and fired a shot through traffic that just snuck inside the left post for his 22nd of the season to give Buffalo a 2-0 lead.

"We wanted to get the lead on them and not let them build on any confidence from the last few games."

With traffic in front of Martin Biron, Carlo Colaiacovo released a quick wrist shot from just inside Buffalo's blueline that found its way into the back of the net at 17:49. Biron made his first start since December 23 and recorded his ninth victory of the season with 32 saves.

"We're fortunate that we have a number one goalie playing every single night," said co-captain Daniel Briere. "It's tough for Marty sometimes, confidence wise, but his attitude has been amazing. He's probably the best team player that I've ever seen."

Buffalo regains their two-goal lead with a precision pass form Thomas Vanek. Receiving the puck along the left halfwall, Vanek slipped a soft feed to the top of the crease, where co-captain Daniel Briere beat Raycroft with a backhander at 3:47 of the second.

With a two man advantage, Alex Steen scores his eighth of the season after converting on Bryan McCabe's rebound at 12:53 of the second to make the score 3-2 in favor of Buffalo.

Ales Kotalik collected a loose puck at Toronto's blueline and fired a blistering wristshot into the top-right corner of the net to regain the two-goal Buffalo lead with just 1:43 remaining in the second.

Another power play brings Toronto within a goal with less than five minutes remaining in regulation. Releasing a hard slapshot from the right point, Pavel Kubina recorded his first goal of the season as Biron couldn't snag the line drive with his glove.
Quotes courtesy WGR 550-AM, the official radio partner of the Buffalo Sabres.
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