But with star netminder Ryan Miller ahead of him on the depth chart on the first-place Buffalo Sabres, Biron has patiently bided his time for the odd start.
So it was hard to tell who was happier after Biron’s 32-save performance in a 4-3 win over the rival Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night. Him or his teammates.
“Give Marty a lot of credit, a lot of credit,” said star centre Daniel Briere, who had a goal and an assist. “It can’t be easy for him. He would be a No. 1 goalie on a lot of teams in this league. He’s got to be one of the best team guys I’ve ever been around in my career. He hasn’t complained and he’s done his job when called upon.”
Biron improved his record to 9-2-1 on the season and while he’d like to play more, there’s no use complaining about it.
“You’re a competitor, you want to play, (coach) Lindy (Ruff) and (GM) Darcy (Regier) know that,” said Biron. “Ryan’s been great. I’m just trying to do my part. You get what you get.”
The Sabres, meanwhile, never trailed Saturday in a game that featured good scoring chances on both sides and forced Biron to shine for Buffalo. And that was a major difference in the game, Biron outplaying his counterpart Andrew Raycroft, who stopped 25 of 29 shots.
“For us, we have a No. 1 goalie playing every night, either way,” said Briere. “It’s a luxury. Not too many teams can count on two guys of that calibre.”
Chris Drury, Ales Kotalik and Dmitri Kalinin also scored for the Sabres (30-9-3), who avoided their first three-game losing streak of the season after previous losses to Pittsburgh and Ottawa.
“We’re not used to losing and we don’t like it,” Briere said. “Two games for us felt like a long time.”
Pavel Kubina, Carlo Colaiacovo and Alex Steen replied for the Leafs (19-18-6), who were coming off double drubbings of the Boston Bruins. The Leafs were full value despite the loss to Buffalo, matching the speed and quickness of the first-place Sabres in an evenly played affair.
“We played hard, and we had our chances,” said Leafs centre Matt Stajan. “They had a couple nice bounces in the first, and we battled back, but they got one more than we did.”
The Leafs came out gangbusters early and forced Biron to make a big save on Mats Sundin in the first minute. But then the Sabres composed themselves and stunned the hosts with a pair of goals 39 seconds apart, both of them floaters from the blue-line that beat a screened Raycroft.
First Kalinin’s slapshot from the left point found the top corner on Raycroft’s glove side at 4:18, then Drury’s wrist shot from the right point went top corner and stick side at 4:57.
Colaiacovo scored in similar fashion with 2:11 left in the opening period, his wrist shot from the blue-line beating a screened Biron top corner on the glove side to cut the lead to 2-1.
Briere restored Buffalo’s two-goal lead 3:47 into the second period with one of the prettiest goals of the season, finishing off a three-way passing play with a patient backhand deke on Raycroft, waiting for the Leafs goalie to commit himself before depositing the puck in the net.
The crowd of 19,487 at Air Canada Centre roared, however, at 12:53 of the second period when Steen cut the lead to 3-2 after banging in a rebound on a 5-on-3 power play.
Kotalik scored the back-breaker with only 1:43 left in the middle period, his solo rush up the ice ending with a wrist shot from the top of the faceoff circle that picked the top corner, glove side, on Raycroft, who was jeered by some of the fans for not stopping a shot he should have had.
“That’s just stupid,” Stajan said of the booing. “That’s the way Toronto is. He’s been there all year for us, made a lot of big saves. (Fans) can do whatever they want.”
Kubina made it interesting when he scored with 4:32 left in the third period, his blast form the top of the right faceoff circle caroming off Biron’s catching glove, a shot Biron should have had and he knew it. It was Kubina’s first goal of the season.
It appeared as though Toronto’s hopes ended when Leafs winger Jeff O’Neill took a slashing penalty with 58 seconds to go. But John Pohl missed an open net with 25 seconds to go as the Leafs staged one last feverish rally.
Notes: The crowd was on its feet for a pre-game ceremony that honoured six world junior gold medallists: Sam Gagner, Steve Downie, Andrew Cogliano, James Neal, Ryan Parent and Ryan O’Marra … The Leafs next host Carolina on Tuesday before playing the Sabres again Thursday in Buffalo … The Sabres play at Chicago on Wednesday before hosting the Leafs.