ST. PAUL, Minn. -- It's no use writing off the Buffalo Sabres. Even when they look dead, they suddenly spring to life.
The Sabres faced a two-goal deficit for the third straight game Thursday, this time against a Minnesota Wild team known for locking down close victories. As the clock wound down, the 18,568 in Xcel Energy Center began envisioning a 5-0 start for their team and the first regulation loss for the Sabres.
Big mistake. The Sabres scored twice near the end of the third period, then silenced the Minnesotans. Derek Roy scored 44 seconds into overtime to give Buffalo a shocking 4-3 victory and move his team to 6-0-1.
"Coming back from a two-goal deficit in this building with four minutes left is a good accomplishment, and it shows the character of this group," Roy said.
During a game full of offensive displays, it was the Sabres' defensemen who shined brightest when it mattered. Nathan Paetsch, Andrej Sekera and Henrik Tallinder set up the final three goals in a span of 4:44 as coach Lindy Ruff called on his blue-liners to take chances with a loss looking inevitable.
"Tonight was looking a little bit dim there for a while," Ruff said, "but when you start gambling and start pinching, you're going to give up opportunities but you're going to create some. Our defense did a good job."
The first goal of the comeback came with four minutes left, when Adam Mair deflected Paetsch's point shot. Just 46 seconds later, Thomas Vanek showed his clutch ability to the fans who used to cheer him at the University of Minnesota. He took a pass from Sekera and put enough mustard on the shot that Niklas Backstrom's glove couldn't catch up to.
After Roy jammed home a pass by a pinching Tallinder, he skated to the corner and was mobbed by his jubilant team.
"We worked as one unit, and we want to celebrate as one unit as well," right wing Ales Kotalik said.
It was a stunning turn of events against a Wild team that, to that point, had allowed just eight goals all season. Minnesota fell to 4-0-1.
For two teams that are among the league's stingiest defensively, scoring chances were plentiful. The Wild finished with 33 shots while the Sabres had 24. Speed is evident on both clubs, and quick skating and passing kept the goaltenders busy.
The Sabres scored the only goal of the opening period, showing the deft moves that permeated the game. Vanek slid a pass to Roy, who quickly fed Drew Stafford, who broke in alone for his second goal in two games.
The goal highlighted the Sabres' best first period in at least three games.
They came out sluggish against both Atlanta and Boston, but they lived up to their vow to start better this time.
The second period was Minnesota's time to shine.
The Wild forced goaltender Ryan Miller to make two stellar saves in the opening 70 seconds, and the onslaught continued throughout a 15-shot period. Two of the chances found the Buffalo net.
"We had a really good first period, then they came out hard in the second," Kotalik said.
Minnesota expanded its lead to 3-1 just 29 seconds into the third period. It was the kind of goal Miller could have had nightmares about. He tried to backhand a dump-in behind his net, but Brent Burns skated in to help Miller put the puck into his own goal.
"He came in after and said  saves and a goal is a pretty good night usually," Ruff said. "At least he had a sense of humor."
It's easy to be jolly when you're team doesn't surrender.