Maple Leafs Fall to Sabres
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- Tim Connolly picked the perfect time to record his first NHL two-goal game.
"It's really satisfying,'' said Connolly, who missed the entire 2003-04 season with a concussion. "After the second period I said to myself, `I haven't had two goals yet ... maybe it will happen tonight.' It was fortunate enough to happen, and we got the win.''
Connolly, who added an assist, scored his second of the game and fourth of the season nearly seven minutes into the final period. He made a nifty move inside the Toronto blue line to go around defenceman Ken Klee, and backhanded the puck past goalie Ed Belfour.
"It was a heck of a goal,'' Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "It's part of what the game is about today, and it was tremendous.''
Connolly has been an enigma since the Sabres acquired him from the Islanders in 2001 in a deal that sent former captain Michael Peca to New York. Connolly underachieved in his first two seasons with Buffalo, scoring 22 goals in 162 games. He was a team-worst minus-28 in 2002-03.
After sustaining the concussion in the pre-season in 2003, Connolly played in Switzerland last year during the lockout. He came into training camp in the best shape of his career.
"He had a whole year that tested his mentality playing the game,'' Ruff said. "He decided he needed to work out hard and become stronger.''
Connolly has played in every game, registering 10 points.
After being criticized by Ruff earlier in the week, Martin Biron made 27 saves in his sixth consecutive start, and fifth since the injury to No. 1 goaltender Ryan Miller. He snapped his three-game losing skid.
"He sees some things that really help me,'' said Biron, who entered with a 4.51 goals-against average.
"Marty played the game he needed to play,'' Ruff said. "I thought he stood tall and looked very good positionally.''
Chris Drury, Mike Grier and Thomas Vanek also scored for the Sabres, who won for only the second time in eight games after starting the season 6-2.
Drury also added an assist, and Teppo Numminen had three for Buffalo.
"This definitely gives us some confidence,'' Connolly said. "They're a good team, and we have to play them a lot this year. It's a good starting point for us.''
Alex Steen and Eric Lindros scored for the Maple Leafs, who lost their fourth straight road game.
Connolly opened the scoring 6:46 in, beating Belfour with a wrist shot from the right circle.
Steen answered four minutes into the second with his seventh goal of the season while the Leafs were on the power play.
Toronto entered with the NHL's top power-play unit on the road, converting on just over 30 per cent of its chances.
Mats Sundin has at least one point in all four games he has played since returning from an eye injury.
With a two-man advantage, Buffalo took a 2-1 lead when Drury dove for a loose puck at the bottom of the right circle, lifting it over Belfour at 12:33 of the second. Tomas Kaberle and Nik Antropov were whistled for penalties nearly a minute apart, and Drury made the Maple Leafs pay with 15 seconds remaining in Kaberle's infraction.
It was Drury's third goal.
"They capitalized on the 5-on-3 and it gave them the energy back,'' Sundin said. "We made some mental errors and took too many penalties.''
The Maple Leafs gave Buffalo seven power-play opportunities.
Toronto tied it 2-2 less than three minutes later after Lindros scored his team-leading ninth goal, redirecting Chad Kilger's shot from the left point.
Grier gave Buffalo a 4-2 lead with his second goal with less than three minutes to go, and Vanek capped the scoring with an empty-net, power-play goal with 12 seconds left.
Belfour finished with 25 saves in his second straight start, and is 3-2 in his last five starts.
"We didn't execute defensively, and lost a game we did a lot of good things in,'' Toronto coach Pat Quinn said.
Notes: Buffalo D Jay McKee missed his third straight game with a bruised foot. ... The Sabres activated D Toni Lydman from the injured list before the game. Lydman missed five games with a groin injury. ... The game marked the first time all 23 players on the Maple Leafs roster were healthy. ... Buffalo RW Maxim Afinogenov missed his first game with a bruise under his ribs. ... The Sabres have won 14 of 21 against Toronto in Buffalo, including the playoffs.