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Sabres Central

Second period Leaf surge does in Sabres
By Rick Anderson
December 23, 2001

The Sabres Stu Barnes fights with Bryan McCabe for possession of the puck along the boards during the first period in Toronto's Air Canada Centre. The Leafs beat the Sabres 3-2 to take 3 out of 4 points in the home-and-home series.
[AP Photo/Frank Gunn]

The stage was set for another repeat performance by the Buffalo Sabres. With the Toronto Maple Leafs leading 3-2 late in the final period, the Leafs took a penalty just like they did Friday night in Buffalo. The Sabres scored a powerplay goal in the first game of the home-and-home series to tie the game. Saturday night in the Air Canada Centre, it played out exactly the same, except this time the Leafs shutdown the Sabres offense and came away with a 3-2 victory.

"It was huge," rejoiced Mats Sundin. "We were patient tonight, and that was the difference."

Martin Biron manned the pipes for the first time since giving up 4 goals in a 6-5 shootout Wednesday against the Chicago Black Hawks. Although Biron played much better, making 25 saves. It still wasn't good enough as the Sabres fell to 5 games under .500 and the season is slipping away fast for Buffalo's playoff hopes.

The Sabres actually took a 2-1 lead into the second period on goals by two of their defensemen, James Patrick and Rhett Warrener. However, they could not score after that and the Leafs pecked away at Biron and the Sabres defense, forcing them to commit fatal errors.

After Alexander Mogilny scored the opening goal, the Leafs got goals by Travis Green and Gary Roberts in the second stanza to take the lead for good. Although Biron was solid in the nets, he still hasn't won a game since the 4th of December. A little help in front of him would have greatly improved his chances to finally get the monkey off his back for a much needed victory.

The Leafs got 3 out of the 4 points in the mini-series and still lead the Eastern Conference. It was a huge win for Toronto.

"They killed us on the power play on Friday," said former Sabre Mogilny. "We have to stay away from the box. We have to be more disciplined."

The game was a clear indication of two teams going the opposite direction. The Leafs, with a few big additions this past year, are sitting on top of the Northeast Division, along with leading the entire conference.

Darcy Tucker, who has really picked up his game this year, credits Mogilny as one of the best additions to the Leafs.

"He's helped me out immensely," praised Tucker about Mogilny. "There are not many guys in the world that have his talent. When he gets the adrenaline pumping, watch out, because he's hard to stop."

"You just see some great things from him night after night where you say, 'Wow, what the heck was that?' " Tucker continued his praise. "I expect a lot more out of him now than when I first started playing with him. My stick is on the ice a lot more, that's for sure. He is so creative, you can't take your eye off the puck when he has it.

"You don't find too many guys in the NHL or anywhere in the world who have that much talent and can do those things with the puck."

Meanwhile, the Sabres have not been able to put together a long winning streak that would help propel them over the .500 mark. Unless if the Sabres turn it around quick, they could join the Bills in sitting home during the playoffs. As it is, Biron and his Sabres now have the Christmas break to think about what has gone wrong this season and how they can rectify it.

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