BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Sabres are showing more fight under interim coach Ted Nolan, and it's beginning to pay off.
The Sabres gutted out a 3-2 overtime win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday night. Defenseman Christian Ehrhoff scored the winning goal 38 seconds into the extra session of a hard-fought, entertaining game for Buffalo, which ended a five-game losing streak.
"The last couple games I thought we were starting to come," Nolan said. "We're doing some good things. We're starting to finish our checks. Defensive zone, we're getting a lot better -- our attack -- and we're just feeling better about ourselves."
The winning goal came directly from Buffalo's hard work.
The Sabres (6-20-1) entered overtime with 28 seconds left on a power play after left winger Ville Leino was strong on the puck and eventually held by Toronto defenseman Paul Ranger behind the net. As Ranger made his way back onto the ice, Ehrhoff's blast from the blue line found its way through traffic and beat Toronto goaltender James Reimer between his legs.
"We really deserved that power play that we got at the end," Ehrhoff said. "There were probably three or four situations we should've gotten a call and we finally did. It set us up for the goal."
Left winger Matt Moulson and center Luke Adam also scored for the Sabres. Goalie Ryan Miller made 22 saves.
"That's the difference why we're in all these games," Sabres captain Steve Ott said of his team's improved effort. "We knew it wasn't going to take a game or two. It might still have our struggles going forward, but it's building within the team concept and this system that we've seen tonight that we proved to ourselves and we grabbed the confidence from that."
Left winger Nikolai Kulemin and right winger Phil Kessel scored for the Maple Leafs (14-10-2), who were disappointed with a series of missed opportunities and unlucky breaks.
One late non-call was a point of contention for the Maple Leafs after the game. With 20.4 seconds remaining, Toronto left winger James van Riemsdyk was taken out by a diving Matt D'Agostini, the new Buffalo right winger. D'Agostini appeared to cleanly dispose of the puck before taking out van Riemsdyk, but the rugged Toronto winger thought otherwise.
"Unless we're playing football, I don't know," van Riemsdyk said. "Definitely frustrating. ... Usually you're in all alone and you get your legs taken out from under you ... you expect something especially when the calls were like they were, five or six to one."
Reimer made 26 saves for Toronto, which lost its third game in a row.
"The breaks aren't going our way and that's when you've got to find ways to create more," Toronto coach Randy Carlyle said. "We had a power play where we didn't get much going in the third period, we gave up a power play goal earlier in the game and the last one wasn't a power play goal, but the guy coming out of the box didn't really have any effect on the play and it went in the middle of the net."
The Sabres came back from one-goal deficits on two separate occasions in the game.
Adam evened the score at 2 with 1:10 remaining in the second period on his first goal for Buffalo this season. Adam took advantage of a juicy rebound from Reimer and buried a shot from the right circle. It was Adam's first goal since April 5 and only his second since Dec. 17, 2011.
Kulemin made it 2-1 on a highlight-reel goal just past the halfway point of the second period. After Leafs center Jerred Smithson and Sabres center Brian Flynn battled for the puck behind the Buffalo net, Smithson ended up sprawled on the ice and flipped the puck over the net to Kulemin, who swatted it out of the air and past Miller at 10:23.
Buffalo tied it at 1 eight minutes into the second period on Moulson's first goal in 12 games. With Reimer down and out to the side of the crease, Moulson put home a rebound following a pretty feed from left winger Ville Leino.
Kessel opened the scoring 2:12 into the game with a blistering wrist shot. Kessel skated untouched through the left circle before beating Miller high to the short side. It was Kessel's 14th goal of the season.
There was a scary moment 12 minutes into the second period when Leafs defenseman Cody Franson boarded Sabres right winger Drew Stafford. Stafford returned later in the period.
NOTES: RW Matt D'Agostini played in his first game for Buffalo. D'Agostini joined the Sabres off waivers from Pittsburgh on Wednesday. ... C Peter Holland, LW Frazer McLaren and D Mogan Rielly were scratched for the Maple Leafs. Toronto was also without LW Joffrey Lupul (groin) and C Dave Bolland (ankle). ... D Jamie McBain, C Mihail Grigorenko and D Brayden McNabb were scratched for the Sabres. ... This was the third of five meetings between the Sabres and Maple Leafs this season and the 191st game all-time between the two teams. Heading into Friday night's game, the Sabres led the series with a 105-62-23 record
By Mark Ludwiczak, The Sports Xchange
Publish Date: November 29, 2013 11:48:05 PM
Feisty Sabres edge Maple Leafs in OT
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