Sabres 8, Kings 3

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP)—Henrik Tallinder knew his goal was important.

Little did the Buffalo defenseman realize it would be the first of a seven-goal outburst that sparked the Sabres to an 8-3 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Friday night.

“After that goal we just kept on jumping, we kept on scoring,” Tallinder said. “You could feel it just turning around.”

Maxim Afinogenov scored twice while Ales Kotalik and Daniel Briere had a goal an assist each as the Sabres overcame a 3-1 deficit by scoring seven times in the final 24 minutes.

Rory Fitzpatrick had the go-ahead goal, and Chris Drury and Jochen Hecht also scored in Buffalo’s best offensive outing since an 8-0 win over Atlanta on Nov. 8, 2001. The Sabres also won for the sixth time in seven games and improved to 9-2-2 in their last 13 home games.

For all the scoring, the Sabres credited Tallinder with providing the spark. His goal came after Buffalo endured a terrible start to the second period, allowing two Kings’ goals, and failing to generate a shot on net for the first 12 minutes.

Things turned around remarkably when Tallinder’s weak shot from the left circle appeared to deflect in off Kings defenseman Tomas Zizka, cutting Los Angeles’ lead to 3-2 with 4:01 left in the second period.

Drury tied it with a breakaway goal less than two minutes later and then Fitzpatrick scored into an untended net, with goaltender Roman Cechmanek well out of position, to put the Sabres ahead for good with 70 seconds left in the frame.

“Chris Drury on the breakaway and Henrik Tallinder, those were the goals that really swung the momentum,” Fitzpatrick said. “We were able to feed off those and keep it going in the third.”

The Kings didn’t appear to know what happened.

“For whatever reason, we stopped playing,” said Ian Laperriere, who scored once for the Kings. “I can’t ever recall a game like that.”

Jozef Stumpel and Scott Barney each added a goal and assist for the Kings, who entered the game 4-0-4-2 in their last 10 road games. The eight goals against were the most Los Angeles has allowed since an 8-4 loss to Chicago on Dec. 18, 1999.

The Kings, in seventh place in the West, gave ground to eighth-place Nashville, which inched to within a point of Los Angeles following a 5-2 win over Washington.

The Sabres are playing strong, but can’t seem to make up any ground in the East, where they are in ninth place. Buffalo remained seven points back of the eighth-place New York Islanders, who beat Phoenix, in the race for the conference’s final playoff berth.

The Sabres appear unfazed, playing with confidence, evident in how they continued building on their lead in the third period, starting with Briere’s power-play goal 34 seconds in that made it 5-3.

“There was no way they were coming back,” Briere said. “We had worked too hard to score those three goals. The confidence was on our side. We had the momentum.”

Briere’s goal chased Cechmanek, who allowed five goals on 22 shots. It was the second time in four starts that he’s been pulled. He was yanked after giving up three goals in the first 22 minutes of a 4-4 tie at Calgary on Feb. 3.

Backup Cristobal Huet gave up three goals on 14 shots. That included a pair to Afinogenov, who scored both his goals in a 1:26 span, to cap the Sabres surge with seven left.

Referee Ian Walsh was forced to leave the game with 2:35 left in the second period when he was struck in the right side of the head by Buffalo’s TaylorPyatt’s high clearing attempt. He returned for the third.

Notes

Rob Ray made his final appearance of the season on the Sabres TV broadcast, Friday, after signing a contract to join the Ottawa Senators for the rest of the season. Ray, the Sabres’ all-time penalty minutes leader, had been out of hockey since finishing last season with Ottawa. … Barney hurt hisshoulder and did not return for the Kings in the third period.

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Three Stars

  Game Winning Goal
R. Fitzpatrick R. Fitzpatrick
Buffalo Sabres
Scored at 18:50 of 2nd

Goaltending

Goalie Team Shot Save
Roman Cechmanek LA 22 17
Cristobal Huet CHI 14 11