SUN Hockey Pool

Explosive Sabres charging hard

TERRY KOSHAN

, Last Updated: 9:13 AM ET

Paul Maurice's television remained in one piece Wednesday night as he watched the Buffalo Sabres gain two points with an improbable comeback victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Maple Leafs coach would rather not witness a repeat tonight, live and in person.

"Regardless of where they are in the game, clearly they are still in it," Maurice said of the Sabres. "They are so explosive up front. They are a challenge, no question."

The Leafs have realized as much -- the hard way -- in their past three games against the Sabres, losing them by a combined score of 12-3. Buffalo is charging at the eighth-place Philadelphia Flyers and, with 81 points, is one behind Philly and the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Sabres' ability to stay relevant is thanks to the depth in the organization and the coaching of Lindy Ruff after the losses of Daniel Briere, Chris Drury and Brian Campbell. Take Mats Sundin, Jason Blake and Tomas Kaberle out of the Leafs lineup on a permanent basis and you can start fitting Steven Stamkos for a Toronto sweater.

After a 1-4-1 stint, the Sabres have won three in a row. The explosive nature of the Sabres -- they led the NHL with 234 goals before last night's games -- was on display Wednesday night when Buffalo scored six goals in the third period to beat Tampa Bay 7-4.

Down 4-1, the Sabres became the fifth team in NHL history to win a game by a margin of three (or more) goals after trailing by at least three in the third period. Thomas Vanek scored a natural hat trick, the second time this season he has scored three in one game against the Lightning.

"I don't know what it is," Vanek said. "It would be nice if they were in our division I guess. I can't explain it."

What's scary about the Sabres is their ability to score off the rush. Maurice said that giving the Sabres, for example, nine odd-man rushes, probably would result in three goals against, where most clubs might not score at all.

"That's the danger of playing against them," defenceman Ian White said. "Once they get on roll, it's tough to stop them. Hopefully we will get up early and that won't be a problem."


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