The Buffalo Sabres, dangerous enough on paper, had several more factors working in their favor Friday night.
The Eastern Conference leaders were at home and had been for a few days, coming off a therapeutic victory.
Although the NHL's hottest team, the Vancouver Canucks came into HSBC Arena with a lot of miles on them, completing a four-game road trip against the Northeast Division. The Canucks were playing on back-to-back nights and for the third time in four nights.
Furthermore, they rested their All-Star goalie and went with minor-league journeyman Dany Sabourin.
All of that, and the Sabres had to work like mules to escape.
Chris Drury scored an extra-attacker goal in the waning seconds of the third period, and Ales Kotalik potted the shootout-clinching goal to beat the opportunistic Canucks, 4-3, in a game the Sabres were lucky to extend past regulation.
"I thought we played a real strong first period, came unglued in the second period and took a couple penalties out of frustration," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "But I thought we got our feet back on the ground in the third period and really went to work and thought the last 10 minutes we really just dominated."
Markus Naslund gave the Canucks a 3-2 lead with a power-play goal 7:58 into the third period, and, with the way Sabourin was playing, the Sabres appeared doomed. The Sabres frittered a gift power play that began with 4:37 to go in the third period, with Teppo Numminen missing an open net.
But Drury collected a point-blank rebound and scored off the heel of Sabourin's glove with 39.1 seconds remaining to force sudden death and ignite the sellout crowd of 18,690.
"When you shoot the puck on the net, you never know," said Sabourin, who was looking for his first NHL win. "But, for sure, it wasn't a pretty goal."
The Sabres had to kill off a Jaroslav Spacek tripping penalty in overtime to reach the shootout.
Jason Pominville and Paul Gaustad also scored for Buffalo. Old friend Taylor Pyatt netted a power-play goal and Jan Bulis scored short-handed for Vancouver.
Sabourin made 33 saves through overtime in place of Western Conference All-Star Roberto Luongo, while Eastern Conference starter Ryan Miller stopped 23 shots.
"I thought we took it to them," Sabres defenseman Brian Campbell said. "It was a game that, I don't know, we threw stuff at them and it just wouldn't go in."
Buffalo's power play was counterproductive against the league's best penalty killers, wasting all five opportunities and giving up a short-handed goal.
The Sabres lost forward Jiri Novotny to a high ankle sprain, but Ruff said the Sabres might not recall anyone from Rochester for tonight's game against the Montreal Canadiens in the Bell Centre. Novotny was injured late in the first period when he got tripped into the boards by Josh Green. Novotny returned briefly in the second period but was taken out of the game.
Pominville scored 7:31 into the game. Sabourin tried to clear a loose puck from the crease but sent it directly to Daniel Briere. His pass across the top of the crease glanced off Canucks center Brendan Morrison and onto Pominville's stick for the flip.
Pyatt unwittingly tied the game with a power-play goal 4:28 into the second period, kicking a rebound with his heel with his back to the goalie.
With 3:52 left in the second period, Bulis scored Vancouver's second short-handed goal of the season on a breakaway. Gaustad then tied the game 1:54 into the third period.