Ales Kotalik scored two goals to help Buffalo win for the 10th time in 14 games, beating Toronto 5-1 Thursday night and showing the Leafs what could have been.
“It was a put-up or shut-up situation and we stepped up and rose to the occasion,” Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller explained. “It doesn’t mean we’re in the playoffs yet but it means we’re in position to make it now.
“We’ve got to keep winning games,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “When you’re playing games against teams you’re right there with, you’re going to have to win the majority of them to stay ahead of them.”
Pavel Kubina scored for the Leafs, who are nine points out of a playoff spot and seem unlikely to qualify. A month ago, the two teams were at the same place in the standings but now the Sabres now are nine points clear of the Leafs.
Ryan Miller stopped 34 shots for Buffalo.
Campbell scored 2:36 into the game with a waist-high slap shot from the blue line that appeared to catch Vesa Toskala off guard.
The Sabres then took three penalties in a row, but the fifth-best penalty kill in the league trumped Toronto’s power play.
“We created a lot of scoring chances but we just couldn’t score the goals,” said Toskala.
Spacek made it 2-0 at the 59-second mark of the second period with another slapper from the blue line on the power play.
Kubina got Toronto on the board when he teamed up with Tomas Kaberle for a rare Leafs power-play goal. Kaberle fed his defense mate a breakaway pass and Kubina, who had sneaked behind Nolan Pratt, made quick moves that baffled Miller. Kubina tucked the puck into the open side of the net at 2:48 with Miller sprawled on the ice and Henrik Tallinder serving a hooking penalty.
Kotalik made it 3-1 at 8:59 when he got a pass from Vanek and took a wrist shot from the circle to Toskala’s right. The puck struck the side of the goalie’s glove and dribbled into the net. It was Kotalik’s first goal in 16 games since Jan. 18.
“I shot a lot of those the last couple of games and they didn’t go in,” Kotalik said. His second goal was an empty-netter with 52 seconds left.
Roy made it 4-1 at 14:49 with Buffalo’s second power-play goal, on Vanek’s second assist.
Thousands among the announced Air Canada Centre crowd of 19,467 booed as the Leafs left the ice for the second intermission.
“I just don’t think we showed enough urgency with the puck,” Leafs coach Paul Maurice said. “We had a 3-on-1 and went offside and you can’t do that in a game like this.”
: Buffalo was 2-for-5 and Toronto was 1-for-5 on power plays … Leafs C Boyd Devereaux, who injured the medial collateral ligament in his right knee late in the 3-1 win over Columbus on Tuesday, will be out for four to six weeks. … Buffalo RW Drew Stafford missed a seventh straight game while recovering from a sprained right ankle, and Buffalo RW Maxim Afinogenov missed a 23rd consecutive game since suffering a groin injury Jan. 1 … Leafs RW Wade Belak and Sabres C Tim Connolly were scratched. … After a home game Saturday against Atlanta, Toronto plays in Ottawa on Monday and flies south for games against Florida, Tampa Bay and Washington.