TORONTO -- Toronto Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle does not particularly like shootouts, but he is becoming accustomed to them out of necessity.
Left winger Joffrey Lupul scored the only goal of the shootout -- the Maple Leafs' fourth consecutive game decided that way -- in a 4-3 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Friday.
The Maple Leafs split those four games.
"I think the stress level goes up in games like this," Carlyle said. "It's not easy winning in the NHL. It proves it night in and night out, there's a lot of shootouts taking place. Do we like shootouts? No."
After falling behind 2-0 after the first period, the Maple Leafs scored three goals in the second period to take a 3-2 lead. But the Sabres tied it up with 24.1 seconds left in the third period on center Steve Ott's fifth goal of the season that came on a power play.
"I thought we started out real well," Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. "The second period shows you how you get yourself in trouble, of you turn the puck over and we turned it over a number of times. What we deserved tonight is what we got."
The goal that forced overtime came after a scramble around the net with Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller removed for an extra attacker and Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf off for hooking.
But Maple Leafs goaltender Jonathan Bernier held firm in the shootout to make Lupul's goal stand up.
"It's getting a little crazy here," said Maple Leafs center Peter Holland who scored a goal in regulation. "It would be nice if we could just close one out in regulation and save ourselves the heartache but when a shootout goes your way it's a great feeling because you got the two points."
Right winger Phil Kessel and defenseman Jake Gardiner also scored in regulation for the Maple Leafs (19-16-5).
Left wingers Matt Moulson and John Scott scored for the Sabres (10-24-4).
Bernier made 32 saves in regulation for Toronto while Miller made stopped 37 shots.
"When you have a 2-0 lead in this league, you can't just expect to win," Moulson said. "It's hard work for 60 minutes no matter how much you're up. We hopefully learned from that and will not let that happen again."
"The positive thing is we found a way to regroup and get ourselves back on track," Carlyle said.
Gardiner started the Maple Leafs three-goal second with his second goal of the season, a slap shot from the blue line at 11:38 of the second period. Holland tied it at 16:25 on a pass from left winger Mason Raymond who picked up the puck after defenseman Jamie McBain failed to control a dump in by Maple Leafs defenseman Cody Franson, who had two assists on the game.
"We had some hiccups in the first," Franson said. "The second I thought was really good. We've still got to iron out the kinks in closing out a lead."
The lead the Maple Leafs could not hold was provided by Kessel, who converted a pass from left winger James van Riemsdyk on a power play for his 18th goal of the season at 19:43 of the second -- 27 seconds after Scott was sent off for high-sticking.
Buffalo struck for goals 52 seconds apart in the first period and emerged with a 2-0 lead.
Center Zemgus Girgensons did the work on the first goal, fighting off Holland all the way. Girgensons took the puck behind the net from the right corner. After working it out to the left of the goal, he took a backhand shot while falling. Moulson batted in the rebound at 7:01 for his 13th goal of the season.
Scott picked up his first goal in 164 games by burying a wrist shot at 7:53 after Bernier allowed a big rebound on a flip shot from outside the blue line by left winger Matt Ellis. Ellis took a swipe at his own rebound but missed before Scott connected. It was Scott's 200th NHL game. His only other NHL goal came Nov. 15, 2009, against Carolina when he was with Minnesota.
"Our first period I thought we played a real smart game, we kept getting pucks in deep, beating them to pucks," Ott said. "Then the second period was our worst period we've played in such a long time. Countless turnovers. I liked our third period again. Turned into a good hockey game, was right there for a win."
NOTES: Maple Leafs C Tyler Bozak (strained oblique) who has missed the 12 consecutive games said he expects to be in the lineup for the game Sunday against the Carolina Hurricanes. He has played only 16 games this season, also missing 12 games with a hamstring injury. ... C Dave Bolland (ankle) and C Trevor Smith (hand) remained on injured reserve for the Maple Leafs. ...Sabres C Cody Hodgson (wrist) was out for the third straight game but LW Ville Leino, LW Marcus Foligno and LW Linus Omark returned to the lineup after missing the win Monday over Phoenix because of illness. ... C Cody McCormick (upper body) and C Kevin Porter (lower body) remained on injured reserve for the Sabres. ... The Sabres will return home Sunday to play the Washington Capitals.