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Sabres Go Red In Win

by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres
The first meeting between the Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs was a game where turnovers led to Buffalo's first regulation loss of the 2006-07 regular season. Facing their Northeast Division rivals for the second of eight times this season on Wednesday night, the Sabres weren't going to allow a repeat performance.

Despite consecutive five-on-three power plays, which Toronto converted to open the game with a 2-0 lead, the Sabres hustled and skated their way to a 7-4 victory at HSBC Arena. Instead of sapping all momentum from the opening faceoff, the man-down situations actually fueled an already emotional Buffalo squad.

"The situation got us a little fired up," said goaltender Ryan Miller, who recorded his 11th victory of the season after stopping 32-of-36 shots. "We were intense to begin with and we knew we wanted to play better against these guys, to go down early on five-on-threes ... you could see all along the bench that the guys wanted to smash their sticks over the boards."

The Sabres regrouped and scored a pair of goals in a two-minute span midway through the first to tie the game. From that point on, Toronto could only muster one more goal against Miller. Buffalo rookie Michael Ryan, who was appearing in his first NHL game and is one of Miller's best friends, scored an own-goal to tie the game 3-3 with five minutes remaining in the second.

"I love the kid," said Miller. "I lived with him in Rochester and he's been a close friend for a long time. I felt terrible knowing it was him after watching the replay. I would have done anything to get the win tonight, get him to forget about that, and make his first game a great memory."

All Miller could do, he did. The netminder from East Lansing, M.I., stopped 15-of-16 shots in the final period to seal the victory. With the win, Buffalo moved to 18-3-1 on the season, increased their division lead to nine points over Toronto, and became the first team in the NHL to score 100 goals.

"We always have faith in ourselves," said Miller, whose team has come back seven times from a two-goal deficit this season. "Tonight, we were a little ticked off.

"I was trying to let [the pair of two-man advantages] go, but I had red in my eyes for a while there. I was really angry and I had to calm myself down. It helps when your guys can put a couple of goals in."

"Both teams were tested," said head coach Lindy Ruff. "We had to battle some adversity early. They had to battle adversity in the second. It turned out to be a pretty, darn good game."

Daniel Briere led all Sabres scorers with two goals and an assist, but gave full credit for both scores to his assisting teammates, Thomas Vanek and rookie Daniel Paille.

"We have a lot of guys that can make plays," said Briere, who leads Buffalo with 30 points (10+20). "I get a lot of credit for scoring the two goals tonight, but on both goals, I didn't do much."

Briere's first of the night came when he was handed a wide-open net by Vanek, who fed the Sabres co-captain with a behind-the-back pass as he was cutting to the net. Contrast that to Paille, who left the puck for Briere just feet in front of a downed Andrew Raycroft for the chip shot and the game winner.

"To be honest, I just had to shoot the puck," Briere said. "I have got to credit to these guys for making plays like that."

Also scoring for Buffalo was Maxim Afinogenov with a goal and an assist, while Jiri Novotny and Brian Campbell each added individual markers. Jason Pominville and Chris Drury each added an empty net, shorthanded goal in the final two minutes of play.

Buffalo's power play converted two of eight chances, while Toronto went two for seven.

"I always say if this team skates, we're a tough team to play against," said defenseman Brian Campbell. "That's what we did in the second period."

With a two-man advantage, Tomas Kaberle fired a no-look, across-ice pass to Darcy Tucker at the right post for easy one-timer and the first lead of the game and Tucker's 14th of the season at 2:19 of the first.

Toronto took a 2-0 lead with another two-man advantage. Kyle Wellwood chipped Bryan McCabe's rebound off the boards into a wide-open net for his fourth goal of the season at the 3:44 mark of the opening period.

With three consecutive penalties going against Toronto, Buffalo tied the game heading into the first intermission with a pair of goals in a two-minute span.

Ales Kotalik's wristshot from the right point on the power play deflected off the right post to Afinogenov, who collected the loose puck and fired into the back of the net to make the score 2-1 at 10:27.

As Toronto's third penalty was expiring, Vanek found Novotny from behind the net to tie the game 2-2. Novotny's wristshot from the slot at 12:37 earned his fifth goal of the season and second in as many games.

Vanek scorched Toronto again with another spectacular pass - this time to Briere - to give Buffalo the 3-2 lead.

Receiving a pass from Afinogenov in the slot, Vanek found the Sabres co-captain cutting to the net with a behind-the-back pass. Briere one-timed the puck just inside the left post for his ninth goal of the season at 1:54 of the second.

Briere returned the favor to put Buffalo up by a pair of goals as he found Campbell cutting down the slot for Buffalo's fourth score of the game.

Campbell recorded the 100th point of his career after fighting his way through a pair of Leafs defensemen to the net and beating Raycroft five-hole for his third goal of the season at 3:05 of the second.

Ryan mishandled Jeff O'Neill's rebound and accidentally guided it into Buffalo's net to make the score 4-3 in favor of Buffalo at 14:55 of the middle frame.

Tucker ties the game with his second of the night fresh off the bench, as he crashed the net and tipped Kaberle's rebound into the net at 7:19 of the third.

Paille collected Pominville's rebound and left a drop pass for Briere, who fired over a downed netminder from the slot for his second goal of the game and 10th of the season at 14:41 of the third to give Buffalo the 4-3 lead.

Pominville and Drury hit the empty net at 18:52 and 19:12.
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