Steen staying sharp

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:46 AM ET

BUFFALO -- The Maple Leafs are accustomed to having a speedy forward with a Swedish background carry the offensive load on his back.

Only this time, the man in question was not named Mats Sundin.

These days, the captain, like many of the Leafs, can stand and admire the feats of his linemate, Alex Steen, who pieced together a two-point evening en route to a 4-2 Toronto victory last night at the HSBC Arena.

Steen has seven goals and four assists in his past eight games and looks like the player general manager John Ferguson refused to give up during the summer in a proposed deal that would have seen him join Tomas Kaberle in Edmonton for all-world defenceman Chris Pronger.

Steen's success, by no coincidence, has come ever since he was placed on Sundin's wing.

The victory, Toronto's second of the season in Buffalo, broke a two-game losing streak.

The Leafs split two earlier games at the HSBC Arena this season, a mighty accomplishment for a Toronto franchise that has found the Queen City to be a hockey graveyard.

The two teams locked horns at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday night with the Sabres coming out on top 4-3.

The Leafs deserved a better fate in that one and looked to tie the game in the final minute. With Buffalo goalie Marty Biron down and out, John Pohl stared at an empty net, only to hit the outside of it.

Game officials were so certain that Pohl would score, they prematurely sounded the horn signifying a goal.

Given the fact they had played the high-flying Sabres closely in those three previous meetings, the Leafs came out a confident crew last night despite being riddled with injuries.

The Sabres even enjoyed a two-man advantage for 1:46 early in the game, but had no real quality scoring chances. Newcomer Travis Green, a penalty-killing and faceoff specialist, was effective while the Leafs were shorthanded, exhibiting a penchant for the role that Michael Peca filled so nicely before being lost until April with a knee injury.

The Leafs opened the scoring just 21 seconds into the second period, thanks to a giveaway by Sabres defenceman Toni Lydman deep in Buffalo territory.

The puck was quickly gobbled up by Steen, whose nifty cross-crease pass was tapped home by Jeff O'Neill.

But the Sabres are far too talented a squad to get down on themselves and responded on the power play less than five minutes later to tie the game 1-1.

With Bates Battaglia in the penalty box, Daniel Briere's point shot was stopped by Toronto goalie Andrew Raycroft, who could not cover up the rebound. Thomas Vanek pounced on the loose puck, poking it under Raycroft's pad to bring the home side even.

The Leafs regained the lead with a power-play marker of their own at 15:42 of the second. Carlo Colaiacovo's point shot bounced off Sabres defenceman Dmitri Kalinin and went directly to Pavel Kubina, who easily flipped the puck from the edge of the crease past Biron.

It was Kubina's second goal as a Leaf, both coming against Buffalo.

For the second time in the game the Sabres came back to tie things up. This time it was Chris Drury, who ripped a Derek Roy pass past a helpless Raycroft less than three minutes into the third.

But goals by Steen and O'Neill midway through the period put the resilient Leafs up 4-2, sending several thousand of their fans in attendance into a frenzy.


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