For those of you that don’t know, Sabres vs. Maple Leafs is a pretty big rivalry. Most times, in these games, it feels as if half the arena has Leafs fans. (This game had several thousand Leafs fans) This probably has to do with the fact that Toronto is less than 2 hours away. On March 23, 2007, I went to the game with my friend from school as we got discounted tickets because we were students. We paid $25 each, which is a phenomenal deal in my opinion.
The Sabres scored first as Thomas Vanek deflected a shot from the point from Dimitri Kalinin. Goalie Ryan Miller was superb for most of the period as he made some exceptional saves. Unfortunately the Sabres got 2 quick penalties toward the end of the period and Bryan McCabe ended up scoring with the 2-man advantage to make it 1-1. In the 2nd period, the Leafs would score the only goal as Matt Stajan scored on a one-timer pass from Alexander Steen.
The 3rd period did not start any better for the Sabres. The Leafs scored 2 quick goals to make it 4-1 with about 16:00 minutes left. Boyd Devereaux scored both of these goals for Toronto. I remember Ryan Miller being very upset after the 4th goal that he threw his stick to the endboards. At this point I was very frustrated with the Sabres but did not lose hope. While all the Leafs fans were going nuts, I knew we were good enough to stage a comeback. We had in my opinion one of the best teams in the league and great leadership in Chris Drury and Daniel Briere.
Here comes the comeback! The Sabres would score a power-play goal from Thomas Vanek to make it 4-2. Vanek fired a hard slapshot to beat goaltender Andrew Raycroft. A few minutes later, Briere made it 4-3 as he put in a loose puck into the back of the net. At this point, I was getting very excited. To be down 3 goals and to pull within one with about 10 minutes to go, I still believed we would win this one.
The next 2 goals to complete the comeback happened very quickly. Actually about 20 seconds quickly to be exact. Jason Pominville scored to make it 4-4. As were cheering for the Pominville goal, Drew Stafford scored the winner and made it 5-4! In the closing seconds of the game, the Leafs had a very good chance to score, but Ryan Miller was there to make a great pad save.
This was the most exciting game that I had been to at that point and it is still the best game I have ever attended. It is not only great to see your hometown team win but to beat your rival, now that’s something special!