TORONTO – For at least one more team flight, the Buffalo Sabres are in the NHL playoff picture.
The Sabres’ 3-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs Wednesday night kept their slim playoff chances alive. Buffalo must win its final two games and hope the New York Rangers don’t win either of their remaining two games and the Florida Panthers post no more than two points in their last pair.
“That’s what we wanted, just to stay alive, stay in this and put the pressure on the other teams,” said Buffalo right-winger Jason Pominville, who had a goal and an assist in the victory. “We have to look at our side of things and that’s winning games and it starts with one and we’ve got to build off this.”
After dumping the Leafs, the Sabres boarded a plane bound for Carolina, where they face the red-hot Hurricanes Thursday night.
Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller said the biggest thing for the team was to recharge and stay relaxed.
“Get some sleep and get to the rink, just try and make it another game,” he said. “It’s important, but we’ve got to make it a complete hockey game. We can’t get too excited and bounce around too much. We’ve just got to go out and play.”
The Sabres are certainly facing an uphill battle as they attempt to avoid missing the playoffs for a second straight season. If they do end up on the outside of the post-season picture, Miller said a strong finish would at least offer some solace.
“If we can win out, I think we can feel decent about the effort we put in over the last two weeks,” said Miller, whose team hosts Boston to close out the season on Saturday. “If we do end up missing the playoffs, it’s not going to feel real good, but we’ve given ourselves a chance to compete in these last few games and that’s the kind of character we need moving forward. If we make the playoffs, that’s going to serve us well.”
Miller’s strong performance and a better defensive effort against Toronto helped Buffalo keep hope alive. Prior to allowing just the single goal to the Leafs, the Sabres had surrendered three or more goals in 10 of their past 11 games.
“It’s big,” said Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff of the tighter defence. “You’re not going to win many games because you can’t score enough to support that. For Ryan to hold it to one was big for us. He held it there and we got the opportunity in the third to put them away.”