for this game

Stafford caps third-period comeback as Sabres edge Maple Leafs

Mar 24, 2007 - 5:48 AM
BUFFALO, New York (Ticker) -- The Toronto Maple Leafs watched a three-goal lead vanish in the third period. Their playoff chances may have disappeared with it.

Thomas Vanek ignited a furious comeback with his second goal of the game and rookie Drew Stafford capped it with 5:48 remaining as the Buffalo Sabres rallied for a thrilling 5-4 victory over the Maple Leafs.

Co-captain Daniel Briere and Jason Pominville also scored during the outburst by the Sabres (48-19-7), who moved two points ahead of the idle Nashville Predators (47-21-7) in the race for the Presidents' Trophy and seven in front of the Ottawa Senators (44-23-8) for the top spot in the Northeast Division.

"They don't give up, the kept plugging away," Toronto captain Mats Sundin said. "There's a reason they're where they are in the standings."

Boyd Devereaux scored twice in a 2:53 span early in the third to open a seemingly comfortable 4-1 lead for Toronto. But Vanek netted his team-leading 37th goal of the season and second of the night during a power play 5 1/2 minutes into the session to begin Buffalo's surge.

Briere drew the Sabres within 4-3 at 9:18, and Pominville and Stafford tallied 20 seconds apart later in the period to conclude the stunning comeback.

"We've been a team all year that has a never-quit attitude," Pominville said. "After the second (period), we weren't too happy about the way we were playing. ... Once we moved the puck better, we created those offensive chances. That's our game, getting our feet moving, having good puck movement, and once we did that, we were fine."

"I'm pretty impressed," Miller said of his team's resurgence. "I think (the Maple Leafs) made a big error in sitting back on us after they got up in the goals. It allowed us to skate, and our guys did a great job looking for holes and getting the passes. These guys can really play some hockey when they get their feet moving. It was a nice turnaround."

Stafford's goal was his sixth in five games.

"They're scoring goals off the ref, they're getting breaks, their fans are into it," Stafford said. "You want to get back at them, shut them up as much as you can, get your crowd going. If you get your crowd going, you get some momentum. That's what we did."

The Maple Leafs had a tremendous chance to forge a 5-5 tie with 12 seconds remaining, but Ryan Miller made a spectacular right pad save on Sundin's shot from alone on the left side of the net to preserve the victory.

"He didn't really move too much," Miller said. "I knew he was hovering around there. When the puck went over there, it was desperation. I knew he'd be trying to go quick with it, too. Luckily, I don't think he got it up enough, but I was able to get the pad over."

"All losses hurt, we know that," Sundin said. "Anytime you have a lead like that in the third, it hurts a little bit, but at the same time, you can use it to drum up some energy and emotion for (the next game)."

Pominville added two assists and Vanek also set up a goal for Buffalo, which won for the fourth time in five contests despite allowing a season-high 44 shots.

"We've shown all year we don't give up," Vanek said. "It doesn't matter who it is, what point of the game it is. We tried to keep coming, got the second one, the third one, kept coming."

Matt Stajan had a goal and an assist and defenseman Bryan McCabe also scored for the Maple Leafs (35-29-10), who remained two points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

"It's a heartbreaker to lose a game like that," Sundin said. "At the same time, we're still in a position where we can make the playoffs. We have to bounce back."

"I don't even think I'm able to describe it to you," Maple Leafs coach Paul Maurice added. "We put ourselves in a tough spot. We were trying to make plays, but we couldn't get it in deep. Simple plays that we are so good at stopped happening."

Toronto, which has dropped four straight on the road, welcomed back Tomas Kaberle after an eight-game absence. The defenseman, who registered an assist, was sidelined with a concussion suffered March 2 against New Jersey.

The home-and-home series between the Northeast Division rivals concludes at Air Canada Centre on Saturday. Buffalo (5-2-0) clinched the season series with Friday's victory.

"We were down and came back. Tough one, no doubt about it," Stajan said. "Now we've got to bounce back (Saturday), otherwise we're going to have a tough stretch to end the season out."

Vanek opened the scoring on the power play 5:17 into the game, but the Maple Leafs stormed back with four straight goals. McCabe began the outburst with a one-timer during a two-man advantage with 65 seconds left in the first and Stajan put Toronto ahead, 2-1, at 4:11 of the second.

Devereaux doubled the lead 59 seconds into the third, converting a pass by Alex Steen from the right hash marks, before completing his first multi-goal performance of the season at 3:52 from alone in front after a clearing attempt bounced off the referee behind the net.

"It was a weird bounce off the ref," Miller said. "I don't really know what transpired behind there. My first move was to play (the puck). I didn't know (Devereaux) had a jump on me. I got caught dead in the water."

Vanek drew Buffalo within 4-2 at 5:27, beating goaltender Andrew Raycroft with a slap shot from the right faceoff circle to cap his eighth two-tally effort of the campaign. Briere made it a one-goal deficit less than four minutes later, when he knocked his third opportunity at a rebound past Raycroft from the left side of the net.

Pominville forged a tie with 6:08 remaining, beating Raycroft to the glove side with a wrister during a breakaway, and Stafford redirected a pass by Vanek by the netminder from the right side to complete the comeback.

"It was a 3-on-2, Vanek did a great job," Stafford said. "(He) showed his patience, let the defense drop to him, saw my stick, got it. (I) just tipped it in."








  • NHL
    FINAL 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    TORONTO 1 1 2 4
    BUFFALO 1 0 4 5 FINAL
    GOAL SCORING:
    1ST PRD: BUF - (PP) THOMAS VANEK 36 (DMITRI KALININ, JASON
    POMINVILLE) 5:17
    TOR - (PP) BRYAN MCCABE 12 (TOMAS KABERLE, MATS SUNDIN)
    18:55
    2ND PRD: TOR - MATT STAJAN 10 (ALEX STEEN, CARLO COLAIACOVO) 4:11
    3RD PRD: TOR - BOYD

    Mar 23 10:37 PM


  • NHL
    TORONTO 4
    BUFFALO 5
    3RD PRD: BUF - DREW STAFFORD 12 (THOMAS VANEK, DEREK ROY) 14:12

    Maple Leafs vs. SabresMar 23 10:27 PM


  • NHL
    TORONTO 4
    BUFFALO 4
    3RD PRD: BUF - JASON POMINVILLE 32 (DANIEL BRIERE, JOCHEN HECHT) 13:52

    Maple Leafs vs. SabresMar 23 10:27 PM
  • 7
    roots
    RUWTbot Took away 25 roots

    Maple Leafs vs. SabresMar 23 10:27 PM
  • 32
    roots
    RUWTbot Added 32 roots

    Maple Leafs vs. SabresMar 23 10:27 PM


  • NHL
    TORONTO 4
    BUFFALO 3
    3RD PRD: BUF - DANIEL BRIERE 31 (BRIAN CAMPBELL, CHRIS DRURY) 9:18

    Maple Leafs vs. SabresMar 23 10:17 PM


  • NHL
    TORONTO 4
    BUFFALO 2
    3RD PRD: BUF - (PP) THOMAS VANEK 37 (DEREK ROY, JASON POMINVILLE) 5:27

    Maple Leafs vs. SabresMar 23 10:09 PM


  • NHL
    TORONTO 4
    BUFFALO 1
    3RD PRD: TOR - BOYD DEVEREAUX 6 (UNASSISTED) 3:52

    Maple Leafs vs. SabresMar 23 10:06 PM


  • NHL
    TORONTO 3
    BUFFALO 1
    3RD PRD: TOR - BOYD DEVEREAUX 5 (MATT STAJAN) 0:59

    Maple Leafs vs. SabresMar 23 10:01 PM


  • NHL
    END OF THE 2ND 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    TORONTO 1 1 2
    BUFFALO 1 0 1 END OF THE 2ND
    GOAL SCORING:
    1ST PRD: BUF - (PP) THOMAS VANEK 36 (DMITRI KALININ, JASON
    POMINVILLE) 5:17
    TOR - (PP) BRYAN MCCABE 12 (TOMAS KABERLE, MATS SUNDIN)
    18:55
    2ND PRD: TOR - MATT STAJAN 10 (ALEX STEEN, CARLO COLAIACOVO) 4:11
    SHOTS O

    Mar 23 9:41 PM


  • NHL
    TORONTO 2
    BUFFALO 1
    2ND PRD: TOR - MATT STAJAN 10 (ALEX STEEN, CARLO COLAIACOVO) 4:11

    Maple Leafs vs. SabresMar 23 9:10 PM


  • NHL
    END OF THE 1ST 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    TORONTO 1 1
    BUFFALO 1 1 END OF THE 1ST
    GOAL SCORING:
    1ST PRD: BUF - (PP) THOMAS VANEK 36 (DMITRI KALININ, JASON
    POMINVILLE) 5:17
    TOR - (PP) BRYAN MCCABE 12 (TOMAS KABERLE, MATS SUNDIN)
    18:55
    SHOTS ON GOAL: 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    TOR 21

    Mar 23 8:45 PM


  • NHL
    TORONTO 1
    BUFFALO 1
    1ST PRD: TOR - (PP) BRYAN MCCABE 12 (TOMAS KABERLE, MATS SUNDIN) 18:55
    (TWO-MAN ADVANTAGE)

    Maple Leafs vs. SabresMar 23 8:44 PM


  • NHL
    TORONTO 0
    BUFFALO 1
    1ST PRD: BUF - (PP) THOMAS VANEK 36 (DMITRI KALININ, JASON POMINVILLE)
    5:17

    Maple Leafs vs. SabresMar 23 8:19 PM