Tyler Ennis, his face flushed red from excitement with beads of sweat dripping off his cheekbones, had a smile that couldn't get wider.
"Wow," he said Tuesday night. "That was something."
There are plenty of words to describe Buffalo's 6-5 overtime victory over Toronto, a leap-from-the-grave comeback that had the faithful believing anything can happen. "Wow" is as good a place to start as any.
The Sabres, left for dead by thousands of fans in First Niagara Center and countless more throughout Sabreland, rallied from the depths of near-elimination to keep their season alive. Buffalo scored twice in the final 5:03 of regulation and got the game-winner from Derek Roy with 1:31 left in overtime to rock the Maple Leafs.
"We knew we were on the ropes," said defenseman Jordan Leopold, who scored a tying goal for the ages with 1:53 left. "We don't want to see that many on the board against, but somehow, someway we found a way to win."
The stunning victory pulled the Sabres even in points with eighth-place Washington with two games remaining for both. The Sabres visit the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday while the Capitals host the Florida Panthers at the same time. Buffalo needs to finish ahead of Washington, which owns the tiebreaker. The Sabres can still pass the Panthers, too, despite Florida's four-point edge.
It's all possible after the Sabres rallied from deficits that included 3-0, 4-2 and 5-3.
"I can't say enough about the guys in the room," Ennis said. "That's just a great comeback win. That's not how we wanted to start. That's not how we envisioned the game to go, but what a battle, what a win. That feels good, and we need to carry this momentum on."
Fans began heading toward Washington Street when Toronto rebuilt a two-goal lead with 9:21 to play. Staring up a 5-3 deficit, Roy decided to take a few deep breaths. Then he and his teammates took folks' breath away.
"This is our season," Roy recalled thinking. "This could be the end of our season if we lose this game. That's where you dig down deep and say that to yourself, and you find energy."
They got a jolt when defenseman Alexander Sulzer completed his first two-goal night with 5:03 left. Then chaos became Buffalo's best friend.
Marcus Foligno, the First Star of the game, came from below the goal line to try to jam the puck home. Goaltender Ben Scrivens stopped him, but the puck caromed to the top of the crease. So did all 10 skaters.
They poked. They punched. They dived. They pushed. Referee Mike Hasenfratz, who joined the players in the crease, let the scrum continue for 10 seconds before Leopold finally poked the puck out of the pile and into the net.
The bedlam in the blue paint created pandemonium in the stands.
"You look at it, and who knows how it went in," Leopold said. "The funny part was their goalie was actually holding my stick and I was pushing down on somebody. I heard their guys talking, 'It's under me, it's under me.' I had no idea where the puck was. I just took a stab at it, and it ended up hitting my stick and pushing in."
Said Ennis: "I just saw bodies. I saw the puck flicker by a couple times, but I just saw bodies everywhere. I was just trying to find the puck. Leo jumps in and pokes it home."
Foligno was on the bottom of the pile, his head wedged between the ice and Mike Komisarek's gloved fist.
"It's good that [the whistle] didn't blow," Foligno said. "I think the ref was looking at how many punches I took in the face, so he was just in awe.
"It's one thing when it's near the goalie and the goalie might be looking for it, but he wasn't. He was kind of staying in his crease, so the puck was loose. We're happy that Leo jumped in and pushed it home."
The Capitals and Panthers tore up their free pass to the playoffs when the Sabres' power-play unit struck for the third time. Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf shot the puck over the glass with 1:52 gone in OT, allowing Roy to end the drama. He corralled Thomas Vanek's rebound and beat Scrivens high on the glove side.
"That game had everything," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said.
The Sabres aren't going to let their season end quietly, though it certainly seemed like it at first. They trudged into the first intermission in a 3-0 hole, badly outplayed by the team that beat them Saturday.
"We didn't yell or shout or anything," said goalie Ryan Miller, who allowed five goals on 20 shots. "We just looked at each other and said, 'Really? That's how we're going to come out with our backs against the wall for the playoffs?' Our reaction in the second was much better."
The Sabres scored twice in the second and entered the third period in a 3-2 hole. They dug out of it and what was surely the end of their season.
"We dodged a bullet," Miller said. "We can enjoy the excitement for one night, but we've got to be better."
Said Ennis: "It was just a wild one, and it was one of the best feelings ever to win that one."