BUFFALO, N.Y. – Bryan McCabe and the Toronto Maple Leafs were determined not to have history repeat itself.
Andrew Raycroft made 30 saves for his sixth career shutout, Mats Sundin had a goal and an assist, and McCabe redeemed himself for a past gaffe in Toronto’s 3-0 win over the slumping Buffalo Sabres on Friday night.
In the last meeting in Buffalo between the two teams in mid-October, the Maple Leafs blew a two-goal, third-period lead and lost in overtime when McCabe inadvertently swatted the puck into his own net. McCabe again scored the winner, but this time it was in the right goal.
“At least one was for our team, so that’s a bonus this time around I guess,” McCabe kidded.
Raycroft, meanwhile, put his team in a position not to waste another lead. Making his first start after two relief appearances, Raycroft made 15 saves in a scoreless first period, including a diving stop to his right on Nathan Paetsch’s rebound attempt with 55 seconds remaining.
He was also helped when Sabres centre Jochen Hecht hit the goal post with 14 minutes left in regulation. Raycroft needed to turn aside only six shots in the final frame, thanks to a suffocating defence that neutralized the Sabres pop-gun offence.
“To win games you have to have breaks,” said Raycroft, whose last start was Oct. 20, when he surrendered five goals in a loss to Chicago. “We had a busy first, but we didn’t give them anything in the third. That was the best third period we’ve played in a really long time.”
Boyd Devereaux also scored to help the Maple Leafs, last in the NHL in goals against entering the game, win for the second time in the last three games.
“Andrew had a great game in net, but we played a great game defensively,” said Sundin, who moved to within one goal of tying Frank Mahovlich for 27th on the all-time goals list, and one point of tying Jean Ratelle for 32nd place on the all-time points list. “We’ve scored enough goals but for some reason we’ve struggled with our defensive play.”
The Sabres, the highest scoring team last season, were shutout for the third time this season, and second in the last three games. They’ve now lost seven of their last 10 games, and have scored just seven times in their last five contests.
“I don’t know what the team is thinking collectively,” said goalie Ryan Miller, who made 20 saves. “It was a frustrating kind of game.”
Miller kept the game scoreless in the second period, when he made a clutch save on Toronto defenceman Pavel Kubina’s breakaway with 8½ minutes left.
Toronto finally broke through with just 36 seconds left in the second period. With a faceoff to the right of Miller, Sundin cleanly beat Buffalo’s Clarke MacArthur, drawing the puck back to McCabe 10 feet inside the blueline in the middle of the ice. McCabe’s slap shot went off Buffalo forward Paul Gaustad and knuckled past Miller.
McCabe was playing in his first game after missing the last six because of a groin strain.
Sundin made it 2-0 with his ninth of the year three minutes into the third period, and Devereaux capped the scoring with his second goal with just 59 seconds remaining in the third.
The Maple Leafs’ lineup was bolstered by the return of not only McCabe, but also forward Darcy Tucker. Tucker missed seven games because of a knee injury.
“We’re hitting posts, we’re hitting legs and we’re missing open nets,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “I’m disappointed the puck isn’t going into the net.”
Notes: McCabe earned his 400th career NHL point on his goal. … Sabres D Jaroslav Spacek returned after missing eight of the last nine games because of a shoulder injury. … Buffalo forwards Tim Connolly (abdomen) and Adam Mair (ankle) both missed their second games. Connolly was tied for the team lead in points heading into the game. … The last Toronto shutout in Buffalo was by Ed Belfour on April 2, 2004. … Sundin now has 532 career goals and 1,266 points.