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A Much Needed Win

Saturday, 31.03.2012 / 10:56 PM / News
The Canadian Press
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A Much Needed Win
TORONTO -- The longest home losing streak in Toronto Maple Leafs history is over.

Joey Crabb had a goal and an assist and callup Ben Scrivens made 29 saves Saturday as the Maple Leafs dealt the Buffalo Sabres playoff hopes a blow by beating them 4-3.

There was a much better atmosphere inside Air Canada Centre than on most Leafs game nights in recent months. Toronto hadn't won here since Feb. 6, a stretch of 11 games that saw fans successfully lobby for the firing of former coach Ron Wilson and chant ``Let's Go Blue Jays!'' _ among other things.

Phil Kessel, John-Michael Liles and Matt Frattin also scored for Toronto (34-36-9). Clarke MacArthur added two assists.

Tyler Ennis, Ville Leino and Drew Stafford replied for Buffalo (38-31-10), which is trying to chase down Washington for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Sabres fell flat in their most important game of the season. Playing for the second time in as many nights, they weren't able to impose themselves on the fragile Leafs and couldn't convert on three power-play opportunities.

It was a short-handed goal by Crabb that set the tone for the evening, with the Toronto forward stealing the puck from Andrej Sekera at the blue-line and beating Ryan Miller for a lovely breakaway goal at 9:32 of the first period.

That was an important 1-0 lead, especially with Scrivens making just his ninth NHL appearance. During a callup earlier in the season, the 25-year-old struggled in particular during home starts _ losing all three he made.

He looked much more confident on this night and wasn't shy about coming out to challenge shooters.

There was very little he could do on the play that saw the Sabres tie the game 1-1. Drew Stafford made a good play to drive around a defenceman and find Ennis, who roofed the shot at 10:59 of the second period.

But Kessel restored Toronto's lead less than five minutes later by ripping a shot past Miller for his career-best 37th goal of the season.

Liles made it 3-1 with a backbreaking goal that came with just .7 seconds to play in the period. He drove hard to the net and knocked in a MacArthur rebound _ a play that required video review.

That set up the most important period of the season for the Sabres, who briefly got some life after Leino shook off two defenders and beat Scrivens with a backhander at 6:48. Frattin's seventh of the season at 10:20 gave Toronto some insurance it would need when Stafford got his 20th at 17:15.

The victory came as relief for fans, who got to spend the late stages of the game taunting Miller with chants rather than their own team.

Notes: Tyler Myers sat out for the Sabres with a foot injury ... Toronto scratched Cody Franson ... Buffalo called up defencemen Brayden McNabb and T.J. Brennan from the AHL and inserted them into the lineup ... Scrivens made 33 saves for the AHL Marlies in a 5-4 overtime win over Rochester on Friday night ... Announced attendance was 19,546.

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