BUF
39-32-11
TOR
35-37-10

32 SOG
29 SOG

Maple Leafs 4, Sabres 3

Associated Press | Saturday, 03.31.2012 / 10:02 PM

TORONTO (AP) - The lift the Toronto Maple Leafs so badly needed came from the American Hockey League.

Ben Scrivens had nothing to do with a franchise-worst home losing streak that doomed the team's season, but had a big hand in ending it by making 29 saves in a 4-3 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night.

"This team was maybe a little bit fragile," Scrivens said. "I just wanted to try and come in and try to make as many saves as I could and really just give these guys a chance. All the credit goes to these guys, they've had a lot of pressure on them both internally and externally."

Scrivens won a night after making 33 saves in the Toronto Marlies' 5-4 overtime victory over Rochester in the AHL.

"You've got to focus on the task at hand," Scrivens said. "Last night was Rochester, tonight was Buffalo and we'll see what happens tomorrow."

It was the first time since Feb. 6 - a span of 11 games - the team celebrated a victory at Air Canada Centre. The ensuing 55 days saw the Leafs plummet from playoff contention, replace coach Ron Wilson with Randy Carlyle and give general manager Brian Burke plenty of reasons to look at making big changes in the offseason.

Scrivens represents an interesting option moving forward.

The 25-year-old spent time with the Leafs in November and has become one of the top AHL goalies since being sent back to the Marlies. He leads that league in goals-against average, is third in save percentage and there is hope he'll be part of a long run in the Calder Cup playoffs.

He did a nice job of handling the heat against a desperate Sabres team, getting a blocker on a 2-on-1 chance by Tyler Ennis early in the third period before stopping another shot in the dying seconds.

"He gave us a chance," Carlyle said. "He stopped a 2-on-1 early in the third period and it kind of rallied everybody."

Joey Crabb scored short-handed and added an assist, and Phil Kessel, John-Michael Liles and Matt Frattin also had goals for Toronto.

Ennis, Ville Leino and Drew Stafford replied for Buffalo.

The Sabres are two points behind eighth-place Washington in the Eastern Conference with just three games to play. The Capitals hold the tiebreaker, so Buffalo has to make up three points in the standings.

Asked after the game if he had been looking up at the out-of-town scores, Sabres coach Lindy Ruff replied: "I was looking higher than that - for the big fellow to help out."

There was a much better atmosphere inside Air Canada Centre than on most Leafs game nights in recent months. Rather than heckling their own team, fans had the chance to derisively chant Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller's name throughout the third period.

Miller didn't allow any soft goals but thought he could have been better.

"We scored some goals tonight, so I didn't need to be perfect," Miller said. "But I needed to make another save or two."

Playing for the second time in two nights, Buffalo wasn't able to impose itself on the fragile Leafs. The Sabres also couldn't convert on three power-play opportunities.

Crabb's short-handed goal set the tone, with the Toronto forward stealing the puck from Andrej Sekera at the blue line and beating Ryan Miller for a breakaway goal at 9:32 of the first period.

That was an important 1-0 lead, especially with Scrivens making just his ninth NHL appearance. During a callup earlier in the season, the 25-year-old struggled in particular during home starts - losing all three he made. He looked much more confident on this night and wasn't shy about coming out to challenge shooters.

There was little he could do on the play that saw the Sabres tie it at 1. Drew Stafford made a good play to drive around a defenseman and find Ennis, who roofed the shot at 10:59 of the second period.

But Kessel restored Toronto's lead less than 5 minutes later by ripping a shot past Miller for his career-best 37th goal of the season.

"It's been a while coming," Kessel said.

Liles made it 3-1 with a backbreaking goal that came with 0.7 seconds to play in the period. He drove hard to the net and knocked in MacArthur's rebound - a play that required video review.

That set up the most important period of the season for the Sabres, who briefly got some life after Leino shook off two defenders and beat Scrivens with a backhander at 6:48. Frattin's seventh of the season at 10:20 gave Toronto the insurance it would need when Stafford got his 20th at 17:15.

Notes: Tyler Myers sat out for the Sabres because of a foot injury ... Toronto scratched Cody Franson ... Buffalo called up defensemen Brayden McNabb and T.J. Brennan from the AHL and inserted them into the lineup.

1st2nd3rdT
BUF
TOR
Scoring Summary
1st Period
09:32TOR SHG - Joey Crabb (11) Wrist shot - ASST: NONE 1 - 0 TOR
2nd Period
10:59BUF Tyler Ennis (14) Wrist shot - ASST: Drew Stafford (29), Jordan Leopold (14) 1 - 1 Tie
15:17TOR PPG - Phil Kessel (37) Snap shot - ASST: Tyler Bozak (28), Jake Gardiner (22) 2 - 1 TOR
19:59TOR John-Michael Liles (7) Wrist shot - ASST: Clarke MacArthur (21), Joey Crabb (14) 3 - 1 TOR
3rd Period
06:48BUF Ville Leino (7) Backhand shot - ASST: Jason Pominville (41), Alexander Sulzer (5) 3 - 2 TOR
10:20TOR Matt Frattin (7) Snap shot - ASST: Clarke MacArthur (22), John-Michael Liles (20) 4 - 2 TOR
17:15BUF Drew Stafford (20) Snap shot - ASST: Marcus Foligno (5), Tyler Ennis (18) 4 - 3 TOR
Three Stars of the Game
Joey Crabb
1st
Joey Crabb
G: 1Shots: 2
A: 1Hits: 1
PTS: 2PIM: 0
+/-: 2TOI: 19:42
Drew Stafford
2nd
Drew Stafford
RW
G: 1Shots: 2
A: 1Hits: 0
PTS: 2PIM: 0
+/-: 1TOI: 20:23
Ben Scrivens
3rd
Ben Scrivens
SA: 32TOI: 60:00
GA: 3EV: 21-24
PIM: 0PP: 8-8
SV%: .906SH: 0-0
Penalty Summary
1st Period
09:14TOR Carter Ashton  Hooking against  Marcus Foligno
13:23TOR Mike Brown  Hooking against  Brayden McNabb
2nd Period
07:02TOR Jay Rosehill  Tripping against  Andrej Sekera
14:22BUF Jordan Leopold  Hooking against  Mikhail Grabovski
3rd Period
07:26BUF Thomas Vanek  Holding against  Clarke MacArthur
shots by period
PeriodBUFTOR
1st87
2nd1514
3rd98
Total3229
Team Stats
CategoryBUFTOR
Power Plays0/31/2
Hits2134
Faceoff Wins2823
Giveaways2213
Takeaways612
Blocked Shots1521
Penalty Minutes46
  • BUFFALO
  • TORONTO
#skatersPosGA+/-SPIMTOI
3J. LeopoldD0113225:16
8C. McCormickC000004:49
9D. RoyC0001021:49
19C. HodgsonC00-25019:52
21D. StaffordR1112020:23
22B. BoyesR0001011:06
23V. LeinoL1012014:12
24R. RegehrD0011017:15
26T. VanekL00-20216:44
29J. PominvilleR0100020:23
33T. BrennanD0013011:56
36P. KaletaR000105:12
44A. SekeraD00-11023:28
52A. SulzerD0104022:40
63T. EnnisC1115018:23
78C. TroppR00-11012:29
81B. McNabbD00-11014:32
82M. FolignoL0111017:37
#GoaliesSvSASv%TOI
30R. Miller2529.86258:59
#skatersPosGA+/-SPIMTOI
2L. SchennD00-20015:14
3D. PhaneufD0002026:11
8M. KomisarekD0021018:11
9C. ArmstrongR000004:27
12T. ConnollyC00-21015:52
15M. LombardiC0002012:49
16C. MacArthurL0226020:01
18M. BrownR00-31212:53
24J. LilesD1123018:58
36C. GunnarssonD0000023:20
37C. AshtonR00-32212:02
38J. RosehillL000024:50
39M. FrattinR1012015:48
42T. BozakC0111019:59
46J. CrabbR1122019:42
51J. GardinerD01-22018:06
81P. KesselR1003019:56
84M. GrabovskiC0011015:41
#GoaliesSvSASv%TOI
30B. Scrivens2932.90660:00