One tired team showed up, one rested team didn't.
The result was another nail in the Toronto Maple Leafs' playoff coffin.
Red hot sniper Thomas Vanek had a goal and two assists as the Buffalo Sabres won on back-to-back nights, following a 5-1 victory over the Maple Leafs before 19,467 unimpressed spectators at the Air Canada Center.
Vanek tipped home Jaroslav Spacek's point shot :59 seconds into the second period for his 26th goal of the season, one night after notching the hat-trick in a 4-3 overtime win against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Vanek, Buffalo's $50 million man, has now scored 12 goals in his past ten games. He vowed to reporters this week that his club would not miss the playoffs. The win by Buffalo moved them into a sixth place tie with the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference with 68 points. The top eight in the conference make the post-season.
According to coach Paul Maurice, the story of this game was his team's inability to get pucks through to Ryan Miller, the Sabres netminder. On the other hand, he said Buffalo was able to capitalize on the few good chances they had on their goalie Vesa Toskala.
Miller stopped 34 of 35 shots for his 27th win of the season. Toskala, the less busier of the two, made 18 saves.
It was a ho-hum effort by the majority of men wearing blue and white. Captain Mats Sundin was a non-factor most of the game. Speculation continues to grow on whether the big Swede will be in a Leaf uniform by next week.
Detroit, Anaheim, Montreal and San Jose are several teams rumored to have made offers to Leafs interim general manager Cliff Fletcher as the February 26 trade deadline fast approaches.
Kyle Wellwood, Toronto's creative little middle man, had better find his scoring touch again. Otherwise, his NHL job may be in jeopardy. Wellwood has registered just one goal in his last 23 games. Unacceptable if you're Maurice, or a Leaf fan for that matter.
Toronto close out their five game homestand this Saturday as Ilya Kovalchuk and the Atlanta Thrashers invade the ACC. Thus far, the Leafs have gone 2-2. Game time is 7 p.m. on Hockey Night in Canada,
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