for this game

Sundin, Maple Leafs hand Sabres first regulation loss

Nov 5, 2006 - 2:40 AM BUFFALO, New York (Ticker) -- The Buffalo Sabres finally ran out of early-season magic, but Mats Sundin still has a few tricks up his sleeve.

The Sabres surrendered three goals in a four-minute stretch of the second period in suffering their first regulation loss with a 4-1 defeat to the Toronto Maple Leafs, who got two goals from Sundin and a strong performance in net from Andrew Raycroft.

Buffalo entered with 11 wins and a shootout loss in its first 12 games, including a spectacular 5-4 victory over Boston on Thursday in which the team rallied from a three-goal deficit in the final nine minutes before winning in a shootout.

However, the Sabres were unable to produce the same type of comeback in the third period Saturday as Raycroft punctuated a strong 29-save performance with a left pad stop on Paul Gaustad with about nine minutes left.

"We played great tonight," Raycroft said. "We've been playing good and hanging in (games). ... It's a good win."

"This was kind of a tough road trip," Sundin added. "Our schedule's going to get better. We had a big game from all four lines, our defense, and our goaltending was good."

Jochen Hecht initially gave Buffalo an early 1-0 lead, but Sundin tied it late in the first period with his seventh goal of the season.

The Maple Leafs took control midway through the second period when Darcy Tucker, Jeff O'Neill and Sundin tallied in a span of 3:24 to create a 4-1 advantage. The stretch was rather indicative of the one-sided session in which Toronto outshot Buffalo, 17-4.

"I hope (this win) gives us an opportunity to be a better hockey club," Tucker said. "There's always turning points in a season, things that make you think confidently. Hopefully this is one of them. I guess that will remain to be seen."

Alexei Ponikarovsky had two assists for the Leafs, who have won four of their last five games.

"If you look at our game so far this year, it's been a little inconsistent," said Sundin, who leads Toronto with eight goals and 10 assists. "Some games we're playing really well, like tonight and in Montreal (last Saturday). Other nights we're not as good. Hopefully it's a transition. ... We're making progress, that's for sure."

Ryan Miller made 29 saves for the Sabres to fall to 9-1-1 on the season.

"We don't want to lose," Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. "Nobody's happy about it."

"It's early in the season," Miller added. "We're going to see a lot of teams more prepared for our system. We have to adapt."

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