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Frattin's late game-winner pushes Leafs past Sabres in overtime

The SportsXchange

BUFFALO -- With the final seconds of overtime ticking away, Matt Frattin looked up ice and saw some members of the Buffalo Sabres making a line change.

He pressed forward for one final chance -- and he was rewarded handsomely for it.

Frattin scored the game-winning goal with 1.5 seconds left in overtime Tuesday night, leading the Toronto Maple Leafs to a dramatic 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres at the First Niagara Center.

"It shows our compete level and our passion to win, really," said Toronto goalie James Reimer, who had 29 saves. "(Frattin) could have just gone easy, gone soft and the D-man could have knocked the puck off his stick and we go to a shootout. But he drove to the net hard and that's the kind of player he is. He's a hard-nosed, hard-working player and it was great to see him get one."

After the two teams had played just under 65 minutes of hockey, Frattin had enough left in the tank to skate hard past Buffalo defenseman Jordan Leopold and chipped home the winner high to Miller's right before the clock expired.

"I looked up ice and there was two or three of them changing, so I kind of just broke out and (John Michael-Liles) called for the pass and hit me wide," Frattin said. "There's still time on the clock, you've still got time to score."

"A rolling puck, I ended up on the backside there," Leopold said of the game-winning goal. "I thought I had the stick tied up but evidently not. We did a lot of good things in that game. We probably deserved better."

The Leafs improved to 3-3 with the win. Frattin also scored in the second period, and Jay McClement and Cody Franson also scored for the Maple Leafs. It was only Toronto's second win in Buffalo in the past four years.

"We know that it's a tough building to play in and we haven't had a lot of success here but it feels good to get the win and now we move forward," Toronto captain Deon Phaneuf said.

The Sabres lost their fourth game in a row, falling to 2-3-1 on the season. Jason Pominville, Andrej Sekera and Mikhail Grigorenko scored for the Sabres. Ryan Miller had 20 saves.

"I thought we dominated the possession for most of the night, we had a lot of great looks and I thought we really skated well," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "It's a tough, tough way (to lose)."

The game was a back-and-forth affair. Grigorenko tied the game at 3-3 7:10 into the third on his first NHL goal, capping a wild day for the 18-year-old. Earlier on Tuesday, the Sabres announced that the rookie will be staying in Buffalo and not returning to his junior team. Prior to his goal, he was benched for much of the second period after being on the ice for Toronto's first three goals.

The Leafs grabbed control in the second period. Even though they were outshot 15-7 by the Sabres, they made the most of their chances and took a 3-2 lead.

Buffalo struck first in the second period on Andrej Sekera's pretty backhand at 2:28, but the Leafs quickly answered. The Maple Leafs tied the game just over one minute later when Matt Fratin buried a rebound to Miller's left at 3:40. Toronto grabbed its lead back 6:21 into the second, going up 3-2 on Cody Franson's blast from the point.

Jay McClement got the Leafs on the board first when he put home a rebound 9:25 into the game. Nasim Kadri's long wrist shot clanged off the crossbar, and McClement took advantage by giving the Leafs a 1-0 lead.

Pominville tied the game at 1 on the power play five minutes later. With several players scrambling around the net, the puck made its way to Pominville in the left circle and the Sabres captain ripped a wrist shot high to Reimer's glove side.

NOTES: Sabres forward Patrick Kaleta went to the hospital after the game with a neck injury. He left the game in the first period after receiving a hit from behind from Mike Brown. Ruff said it was a precautionary measure, as Kaleta has had neck issues in the past. Brown received a two-minute penalty for boarding on the play. ... With his first-period goal, Jason Pominville moved into 12th place in Sabres history with 179 career goals. ... Grigorenko is staying in the NHL after playing in his sixth game of the season. The Sabres had the option of sending Grigorenko back to his junior team after a five-game tryout, but they announced earlier Tuesday that the 18-year-old will remain in Buffalo. The Sabres can still send Grigorenko back to the Quebec Remparts, but that seems unlikely now that the first year of his rookie contract has officially kicked in. ... Sabres forward Thomas Vanek returned after missing Sunday's game against Washington due to a muscle sprain. ... Toronto forward Clark MacArthur missed the game with a finger injury.
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