Jochen Hecht had two goals and two assists as the Sabres cruised to an easy 6-1 victory Tuesday night. The Sabres, featuring four rookies with less than 10 games of NHL experience, made the most of their early scoring chances.
Clarke MacArthur, had a goal and two assists in his seventh NHL game. Jason Pominville, Derek Roy and rookie Drew Stafford also scored for the Sabres.
Alexei Ponikarovsky replied for the Maple Leafs with a late second-period goal that drew the home side to within 3-1 and lifted the 19,588 fansat Air Canada Centre to their feet. But the joy was short-lived as the Sabres closed out the middle period with a late, back-breaking goal by Hecht.
Hecht scored again at 5:21 of the third period to put the Sabres up by four goals and effectively end the Leafs’ chances of coming back.
Toronto was playing its second game in two days – and third in four days – as well as coming off a three-game road trip. Toronto fell to 30-25-9 with the loss; the Leafs are 12-14-5 at home this season.
Buffalo’s Ryan Miller was solid in net, making 28 saves. At the other end, Leafs goalie Andrew Raycroft surrendered four goals on 11 shots before being pulled after two periods in favour of backup Jean-Sebastien Aubin.
It was the third time in five games that Raycroft, who has started 25 consecutive contests, has been yanked by coach Paul Maurice.
It was the third consecutive game against an Ontario-based team for Buffalo (42-16-5), which was coming off a fight-filled home-and-home series against Ottawa on the weekend. The victory over Toronto maintained the Sabres’ three-point lead over New Jersey in the Eastern Conference.
The Sabres were without several injured regulars and leading scorer Daniel Briere was a late scratch after coming down with the flu. Forwards Chris Drury (head) , Maxim Afinogenov (wrist), Ales Kotalik (knee) and Paul Gaustad (ankle) and top defenceman Jaroslav Spacek (broken hand) all sat
The Sabres were also missing njury-plagued centre Tim Connolly, who had a breakout season last year but sustained aconcussion in the playoffs and hasn’t been back on the ice since.
Notes: Buffalo was busier than Toronto at the trade deadline, taking part in four deals to only one by the Leafs. The Sabres’ biggest move was obtaining centre Dainius Zubrus, 28 – and defenceman Timo Helbling, 25 – from the Washington Capitals in exchange for centre Jiri Novotny, 24, and Buffalo’s first round pick in the 2007 NHL entry draft. The Sabres also traded backup goalie Martin Biron to Philadelphia for a second round draft pick in June; Buffalo picked up Ty Conklin from Columbus for a fifth-rounder to back up Ryan Miller. Finally, the Sabres added depth defenceman Mikko Lehtonen from Nashville in exchange for a 2007 fourth-round pickaThe Leafs, meanwhile,
obtained faceoff specialist Yanic Perreault, 35, from Phoenix, as well as a fifth-round pick in 2008, for rookie defenceman Brendan Bell and a 2008 second-rounder. It’s Perreault’s third stint as a Maple Leaf; Toronto drafted him 47th overall in 1991.