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Sabres playoff hopes still alive, barely, after 3-1 win over the Leafs

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

TORONTO - Curtis Joseph is not going to be spending any time pondering tying Gump Worsley's NHL goaltending record for most losses.

"There's too many good things in my life for me to even think about losses," he says.

What the 41-year-old netminder will remember, if his start in a 3-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night was his last with the Toronto Maple Leafs, will be the good times he had in blue and white.

"I've got lots of memories," Joseph said. "Playoffs mostly.

"Playoffs are the ultimate. That's where everything is on the line. A lot of playoff games with the Maple Leafs. A lot of chances and a lot of almosts."

Like 1999, when the Leafs almost got to the Stanley Cup final but suffered elimination at the hands of the Sabres.

"They were all fun," said Joseph.

Joseph's 352nd loss tied him with the late Worsley, but nary a negative word escaped his mouth afterwards.

"I felt I had good control and I saw the puck for the most part," Joseph said. "I was looking around.

"I've done that all year - practice and games. I've been soaking it all in and just enjoying it."

Martin Gerber is expected to get the start when Toronto closes out its season with a home game against Ottawa. Joseph was asked if he mulled over the prospect before stepping on the ice Wednesday that it might be his last start for the Leafs.

"No, you can't think that way or you won't play well," he said.

Brad May, who was honoured in a pre-game ceremony to mark his 1,000th NHL game, said fans shouldn't look at the most-losses record as a black mark on Joseph's career.

"It's pretty neat," said May. 'It's not neat that he's got the most losses but think about how many games he's played.

"You know what? Cecil Fielder hit the most home runs one year, if I'm not mistaken, and he had the most strikeouts, too. Wayne Gretzky had the most giveaways one year and he had the most assists in the league. The bottom line is nothing ventured nothing gained. Curtis has been an incredible goaltender."

Joseph offered this about May when talk shifted to the pre-game ceremony: "He's been a great player and a hard worker and a real character of the game. All his teammates love him wherever he goes. It was a great tribute to a good man."

While the Leafs long ago lost any chance of qualifying for the post-season - they'll miss for the franchise-record fourth year in a row - the Sabres remain mathematically in the running. This win kept them alive, barely.

Jeff Finger scored for Toronto in the first period and Jason Pominville for the Sabres in the second. Thomas Vanek scored at 8:09 of the third period and Paul Gaustad fired one in at 8:35 to enable the Sabres to move within four points of the New York Rangers and the eighth and final playoff qualifying position.

To get in, they'll have to win their remaining games, at Carolina on Thursday and at home against Boston on Saturday, have the Rangers lose their remaining two, which are at home against Philadelphia on Thursday and in Philadelphia on Sunday, and have Florida earn no more than two points from its remaining two games, which are at Atlanta on Thursday and at home against Washington on Saturday.

Toronto outshot Buffalo 33-29 but Ryan Miller was up to the challenge.

"Ryan was huge for us," said Pominville. "He made some big saves.

"He's been huge for us all year and that's the type of goalie he is. He's an elite goalie and he kept us in there, definitely."

Coach Lindy Ruff was happy to remain in contention another day. His only complaint was all the penalties his players took. Toronto was 0-for-6 and Buffalo 1-for-2 on power plays, which had a significant influence on the outcome.

"We had some good flow going before we started taking the penalties in the second period," said Ruff. "That gave them some momentum.

"I thought in the third, when we stayed away from (penalties), we got some better flow and some better zone time and took advantage of a couple of situations."

Notes(at): The Leafs remained four points shy of the 83 they finished with last season . . . Buffalo outscored Toronto 21-6 in five straight wins over the Leafs since losing its first game against them this season on Dec. 12 . . . This was May's 36th game with Toronto. He played 425 with the Sabres. He became the 21st player in Toronto franchise history to play his 1,000th game in a Leafs uniform. The club gave May a silver stick inscribed with his name and those of other 20 men, and had Hall of Famer Red Kelly present it to him. They also donated $10,000 in his name to two charities . . . Announced attendance was 19,516.


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