TORONTO (TICKER) —The Toronto Maple Leafs continue to prove they are a dangerous team when trailing.
Robert Svehla scored the tying goal in the third period and fellow defenseman Bryan McCabe got the game-winner 36 seconds into overtime as the Maple Leafs rallied for a 3-2 triumph over the Buffalo Sabres.
It was Toronto’s league-leading ninth win when trailing after two periods (9-20-2).
After taking an early lead, the Maple Leafs surrendered two second-period tallies. Unbeaten in the last 10 home meetings with the Sabres, Toronto knotted it 7 1/2 minutes into the third when Svehla drifted to the high slot and one-timed Mikael Renberg’s feed past goaltender Mika Noronen.
“Robert has been a great addition for our team and had another solid performance tonight,” Leafs captain Mats Sundin said.
In overtime, Sundin outbattled defenseman Rhett Warrener along the left boards and dished to McCabe, who blasted a shot from the right faceoff circle by Noronen for his fifth goal.
“It’s always nice to get one in overtime,” McCabe said. “Mats made a great pass and I was able to find the net. The puck was on edge and I just caught it and put it under the bar.”
“When McCabe has a one-timer from the hashmarks like that, you only hope you get a piece of it,” Noronen said. “But he put it right up where I didn’t have a chance. You give a guy like McCabe a chance like that and he’s going to bury it.”
Sundin collected a goal and two assists for the Leafs, who pulled within four points of fourth-place Philadelphia in the race for home-ice advantage in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
“We really wanted to get two points,” McCabe said. “We’re trying to go to the playoffs on a positive note and hopefully get some home-ice advantage. If we can get it, we want it.”
“We didn’t allow a whole lot, but they have their big gunners who will get a little something going,” Buffalo center Curtis Brown said. “Overall, we really limited them, so it’s tough to lose it the way we did in overtime, giving up too good of a chance. Tonight, two big mistakes and they put them both in. That’s what happens against a skilled team like that.”
After watching their Montreal counterparts jeer the United States national anthem Thursday in protest of the country’s military involvement in Iraq, fans at the Air Canada Centre responded with a standing ovation after “The Star-Spangled Banner” was performed.
Sundin put Toronto ahead 4:17 into the game on the power play.
Taking a pass from Svehla in the neutral zone, the Swedish center raced down the right side and through the faceoff circle before cutting across the crease. Noronen made a right pad save on the initial shot, but Sundin flipped his own rebound into the net for his 33rd tally and second in as many games.
“They’ve had a tough season this year, but they’ve battled us hard every time we’ve played them,” Sundin said of the Sabres. “We have a great rivalry because they are the closest team we play.”
Patrick drew Buffalo even at 5:41 of the second with his second goal in three contests.
After his shot from the high slot was blocked by Shayne Corson, Patrick regained control and fired a blast from the top of the right circle off the right goalpost and past Ed Belfour for a power-play goal.
“We played well for most of the game and had the game under control,” Noronen said. “Our effort was there, but they have guys who will make you pay the price for little mistakes.”