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DOWN AND DIRTY

Tuesday, 01.03.2012 / 10:33 PM / THE AFTERMATH
By Kevin Snow  - Sabres.com

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It wasn’t the prettiest game of the season, so it’s only fitting that it turned on one of the “dirty” goals that Lindy Ruff has been waiting for.

Drew Stafford broke a tie late in the third period, and finished the night with three points, as the Buffalo Sabres held on to defeat the Edmonton Oilers 4-3 at First Niagara Center. Nathan Gerbe chipped in a goal and assist, while Brayden McNabb had a pair of assists to post the first two-point game of his young career.

The win was just Buffalo’s third in their past 10 games, and also marked the third time in this stretch where they were able to score four or more goals in a game.

With the game deadlocked at 2-2, Stafford started the play on his goal by carrying the puck into the Oilers zone. Derek Roy then sent the puck in front, and Stafford was able to whack the bouncing rubber disc past Nikolai Khabibulin’s outstretched pad while he was parked on the edge of the crease.

“We've been talking about the inside ones. I said we're going to have to get some guys around the crease, throw the puck in their teeth and jump in,” Ruff said. “I think if you take a look at the Leopold goal, Derek Roy's right on the edge of the paint. Then that dirty goal by Staff. You've gotta go to those places. I thought we had five or six pretty good looks with guys around the paint. It was nice to score some goals.”

It was Stafford’s seventh goal of the season, and first in eight games. It couldn’t have come at a more opportune time for himself and the entire team.

“When things aren't going well and you're not getting the breaks, all you can really focus on is getting in front and getting pucks in the paint and just keep whacking at it,” Stafford said. “Finally got one, got a break. It feels pretty good to get rewarded.”

The Oilers were playing their third road game in four nights, and second in a row after a win in Chicago last night. Stafford knew this was their chance to pounce on a weary squad.

“We needed that one. We sat here in the locker room after the second period. I mean after all the talk, all the meetings, the explanations and excuses that have been going out, having to answer to the media day after day, this is an opportunity,” Stafford explained. “It's a perfect chance, 2-2, we can go out and you know, it starts with one when you need to get on a roll. I thought we executed this one well. So there's the one and now the opportunity's there to keep her going.”

Gerbe added some insurance 2:04 after Stafford’s goal, as he streaked in from the left side and lifted a backhand past Khabibulin. Edmonton would get within one on a late goal by Corey Potter, but that’s as close as they’d come.

Jason Pominville and Jordan Leopold scored Buffalo’s other goals. For Leopold it was his seventh of the season, and Pominville scored his third goal in the past six games to take sole possession of the team scoring lead with 40 points (13+27)

Taylor Hall and Sam Gagner were the other Edmonton goal scorers.

Ryan Miller stopped 23 of 26 Oilers’ shots to even his season record at 10-10-2.

NOTES: Cody McCormick (healthy), Christian Ehrhoff (upper body) and Tyler Ennis (ankle) were Buffalo’s scratches … Ville Leino skated with the team for the first time at today’s morning skate. He has missed the last nine games with a foot injury.

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