Sabres in high gear

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:22 AM ET

BUFFALO -- Those of you requiring an NHL playoff fix with the slim chance the Maple Leafs don't make it to the post-season might want to have a look this way.

No longer just one of hottest teams in the league because it's clear they have developed into one of the best, the Buffalo Sabres won their eighth consecutive game last night with a gutsy performance against the Leafs.

Ryan Miller's outstanding cross-crease save on Darcy Tucker during a late Toronto power play preserved the victory for the Sabres, who will head into Ottawa tomorrow night for a first-place divisional battle with the Senators. Buffalo has won eight in a row for the first time since winning 10 in January 1984.

"It always helps a goaltender to have a game where he makes the difference," Miller said. "I just put it in my head to go have fun and play hockey. Every time I have gotten in a situation where it has been a bit of a funk, I try to remind myself why I am doing this -- to have fun."

Miller made 27 saves to earn first-star honours. The Sabres, who are a stunning 35-7-5 since starting the season 9-9-0, have 93 points and are one behind Ottawa. Last night, the Sabres did what top teams do -- they stood up to a physical start by the Leafs and did not wilt, they overcame the loss of an integral player to injury (Jochen Hecht, with a bruised knee, in the second period) and they did not allow the Leafs a goal in the final 6 1/2 minutes despite being short-handed for the majority of that time.

Thanks largely to Miller, the Leafs could not score in a four-minute power play that began at 13:30 of the third after captain Chris Drury was sent off for high-sticking Jason Allison.

"We've proven to ourselves in here (how good they can be)and ultimately that is the important thing," said Drury, who scored twice.

Mike Grier, who scored the winner, said the desperate Toronto side gave the Sabres a difficult test.

"That's as well as they have played us all year," Grier said. "They played hard and determined. It was not an easy win for us."


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