Ales Kotalik’s power-play goal with 3.7 seconds left in overtime gave the Sabres a 5-4 come-from-behind win over Toronto on Monday night.
It’s the first time this season the Sabres have erased a two-goal deficit. Last season, the Presidents’ Trophy winners rallied from two goals down to win nine times, including a victory over Toronto in March when they were three goals behind in the third period.
“It’s the strong mentality of this club,” said Kotalik, whose slap shot from the left circle was stopped by Andrew Raycroft, but defenseman Bryan McCabe inadvertently knocked the puck into his own net to give the Sabres the dramatic victory. “We have a strong group in here. We never give up, and we believe in each other and work for each other.”
Jocelyn Thibault made 21 saves in his season debut with the Sabres.
Buffalo trailed 2-0 after two periods, and was being stymied by Raycroft. But when Mair made it 2-1 at 8:12 of the third, and Pominville tied it 37 seconds later, the momentum began to swing.
“I thought we played our best hockey once we got down by two goals,” said Sabres center Tim Connolly, who had two assists. “We never gave up. We started to play desperate, play physical, and really get pucks to the net.”
Buffalo peppered Raycroft with 19 shots in the third period, and four more in overtime.
For Toronto, it was the second straight game in which it blew a two-goal lead. The Maple Leafs were up by two Saturday before the Pittsburgh Penguins stormed back for a 6-4 win.
“What can you say about luck on my part?” McCabe said. “I tried to clear it … it was on me. I certainly didn’t mean to put it in the net.”
Raycroft, making his third start, finished with 37 saves.
“It doesn’t feel too good right now,” Toronto coach Paul Maurice said. “We don’t have a lot of confidence in our defensive game right now, and it showed. We sat back, and that’s the kiss of death especially against a team that can wind up like that.”
Gamache opened the scoring with his second goal of the season, netted with 4:27 left in the first period.
Antropov made it 2-0 at 5:56 of the second period with his fifth goal.
After Pominville tied it at 2 with 11 minutes left in the third, the Maple Leafs grabbed the lead back 82 seconds later after Kilger redirected a nifty pass from the right corner by Antropov.
After Vanek made it 3-3 with just under 7 minutes left in regulation, Kilger again gave the Maple Leafs the lead with his second of the game 35 seconds later.
Buffalo tied it on Hecht’s goal with 3:33 left in regulation to send the game into overtime.
“We have that confidence that we can come back in any game,” Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. “These games are interesting and exciting.”
McCabe, however, wasn’t thrilled with the outcome.
“We got into a river hockey game,” he said. “They’re a quick team. We’ve seen it before.”
Toronto plays just two of its first 10 games on the road. … Sabres D Jaroslav Spacek left the game with 2:31 left in the third period with a shoulder injury after absorbing a check against the boards by Antropov. Ruff didn’t know the extent of the injury. … Buffalo has won four of five against the Maple Leafs. … Antropov’s goal stood up to a 30-second video review. He has scored in three straight games. … Maple Leafs RW John Pohl had a career-high three assists.