Sabres 5, Maple Leafs 4, SO

Steve Ott has quickly won over blue-collar Buffalo fans with his

hard-hitting, gritty style, and the forward should become even more

popular following a handful of clutch goals.

Ott had the decisive score in the sixth round of the shootout

and the Sabres rallied for a 5-4 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs

on Thursday.

Two nights earlier, Ott scored twice, including one in overtime,

in a 3-2 win at Montreal. And his shootout attempt against Toronto

was his first since Oct. 25, 2011, and the fifth overall in his

nine-year NHL career.

”I was excited. I’m just glad I was able to go before my

`brother’ Mike Weber,” Ott said with a laugh, referring to

Buffalo’s defensive-minded defenseman.

Interim coach Ron Rolston had plenty of confidence in Ott, whose

role has gradually increased since being acquired in a trade that

sent under-performing center Derek Roy to Dallas last summer.

”He was the guy to go to,” Rolston said. ”He brings a lot of

energy to the team and especially the grit he plays with on a

consistent basis. He can be put out in all situations.”

With the crowd on its feet cheering Ott to the ice, he drove

directly at James Reimer and slipped the puck just inside the right

post. Ryan Miller then sealed the win by getting his left pad out

to stop former Sabres forward Clarke MacArthur.

Christian Ehrhoff had a goal and two assists for Buffalo, which

won consecutive games for only the fourth time this season. Tyler

Ennis had a goal and an assist, and Marcus Foligno and Jason

Pominville also scored.

Miller stopped 30 shots through overtime, and allowed only Tyler

Bozak to score in the tiebreaker.

Nazem Kadri had two goals and an assist for Toronto, which was

unable to build off a 4-2 win over Tampa Bay a day earlier. Bozak

and Mikhail Grabovski also scored in regulation.

Reimer made 32 saves through OT, but allowed two goals in the

shootout, including one to Drew Stafford.

Reimer has allowed four goals in five of seven starts since he

returned after missing eight games with a knee injury, but he said

there was no reason to be concerned.

”When you score four, you should win. But at least we got a

point, which is important,” he said. ”No reason to pull the

alarm, but obviously it’s something we’re aware of.”

And Reimer became confused when asked about the Leafs dropping

to 1-3-3 in their past seven.

”To me, that’s one game over .500, if that make sense,” Reimer

said, laughing. ”I don’t know if it does. Maybe it doesn’t, I

don’t know. Too many pucks to the head.”

Bozak and Kadri scored 76 seconds apart to put the Leafs ahead

2-0 midway through the first period. And Toronto appeared in

control 8:52 into the second, when Grabovski deflected in Jake

Gardiner’s shot from the blue line to make it a 3-1 advantage.

The Sabres responded by scoring the next three, capped by

Ehrhoff’s blast from the blue line 22 seconds into the third.

The Maple Leafs responded six minutes later. Kadri was battling

Buffalo’s Jordan Leopold in front when he managed to deflect in

Cody Franson’s shot from the right circle.

Accustomed to blowing two-goal leads, as Buffalo at Montreal on

Tuesday, the Sabres showed they could overcome them, too.

”We didn’t quit,” Miller said. ”We battled back and got a

lead, which is great.”

The Sabres also didn’t shy away from the Maple Leafs’ physical

style.

Maple Leafs forward Colton Orr was ejected 2:09 in after he

broke his stick in two cross-checking Patrick Kaleta off a

face-off. That sparked a fight between Orr and Kaleta as well as

the teams’ two heavyweights, Buffalo’s John Scott and Toronto’s

Frazer McLaren.

And Ott made his presence known by exchanging several shoves

with Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf in the opening minutes.

”We matched size for size, hit for hit,” Ott said. ”That’s

why it was a 4-4 game in a shootout at the end of it all.”

NOTES: The Maple Leafs were without LW Joffrey Lupul, who was

suspended two games by the NHL earlier in the day for an illegal

hit to the head of Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman a day

earlier. … The Sabres were minus leading scorer Thomas Vanek, who

is day to day after being struck by a shot in the right hip in a

3-2 OT win at Montreal on Tuesday. … C Kadri entered the game

with a team-leading 30 points (11 goals, 19 assists) in 30 games.

At 22, he became the team’s youngest player to reach 30 points in

30 games since 22-year-old Ed Olczyk did it in 1988-89.