The Leafs fans who invaded Buffalo were not only singing the blues, they were flinging them, too.
The Sabres were too busy celebrating to care.
The first Labatt can soared from the stands the moment Christian Ehrhoff scored the overtime winner Friday. It was the first of dozens tossed by irate Toronto backers, who littered the ice after Buffalo’s 3-2 victory.
The Sabres ducked a few, caught one and kept on partying with a group hug and stick-raising salute to the Canadians who annexed First Niagara Center for a night.
“We know there’s always going to be a rambunctious crowd coming down from Ontario to watch these games, so we wouldn’t expect anything less,” Sabres forward Drew Stafford said. “Maybe not beer cans and pop cans on a home-ice win, but we won. Nothing else matters.”
While Leafs fans looked dumb, the Sabres played their smartest game of the season to snap a five-game losing streak.
“The last couple days the players are starting to get to know me better and I’m starting to get to know them,” coach Ted Nolan said. “We’re starting to understand one another. The last couple of games, we’re starting to come. We’re doing some good things. We’re starting to finish our checks. Defensive zone, we’re getting a lot better.
“We’re just feeling a lot better about ourselves.”
That tends to happen against the Leafs. One-third of the Sabres’ six victories have come against their neighbors to the north. They are 13-1-1 in the last 15 meetings in Buffalo.
A long list of players contributed to the latest victory. Ehrhoff gets the top spot after slipping a shot through the pads of James Reimer only 38 seconds into overtime.
“I just got it through there, and I don’t think the goalie saw it,” said Ehrhoff, whose goal came just after Toronto’s Paul Ranger left the penalty box for holding. “We really deserved that power play we got at the end. There were three or four situations where I thought we should get a call, and we finally did. We worked really hard for it, and it set us up for the goal.”
Newcomer Matt D’Agostini had a front-row seat for the win, and he helped make sure the Sabres had a chance. Playing his first game since getting claimed off waivers Wednesday, the forward dived to stop James van Riemsdyk’s breakaway with 20 seconds left in regulation.
D’Agostini followed up by screening Reimer on Ehrhoff’s net-seeking shot.
“Not only did he make a great defensive play on that one situation, he was a net-front presence on the goal,” Nolan said. “He didn’t stand off and try to tip it. He was in a good position to screen, so that was a big play.”
There were plenty of key plays for Buffalo. Matt Moulson scored on the power play to make it 1-1, giving him goals in two straight after an 11-game slump. Luke Adam scored his first goal in four games this season to pull Buffalo into a 2-2 tie late in the second.
“Last game I thought I should have had a couple goals,” Adam said. “Even in the first period and early on in the second I missed a couple in front of the net. It was nice to finally get that one to go in.”
Ryan Miller made 22 saves to up his record to 31-15-1 against Toronto. Ville Leino had two assists. Stafford attempted seven shots, registered four hits and worked the point on the power play.
The score sheet was littered with contributions, which was better than an ice surface littered with beer cans. The Sabres will try to anger another crowd tonight when they visit the New Jersey Devils.
“It was a great game,” Nolan said. “I thought it was an entertaining game, and the result was what we wanted, so that was good.”