11/22/2006 11:04:21 PM
BUFFALO, N.Y. (CP) - Daniel Briere scored more than a winning goal Wednesday night.
The star centre of the Buffalo Sabres also delivered on a dressing room promise to rookie forward Michael Ryan, who in his first NHL game inadvertently gave the Toronto Maple Leafs life late in the second period when he knocked a rebound into his own goal.
''I promised him between periods that we would win the game,'' Briere said after his team's 7-4 victory over the Leafs. ''I felt bad for him, in his first NHL game, that was a tough break. Just bad luck.''
Ryan, recalled from AHL Rochester earlier in the day, could feel his stomach churn when Toronto's Darcy Tucker tied the game 4-4 just over seven minutes into the third period.
But then Briere - with his second of the game - held true to his word, taking a pass in the slot from Daniel Paille after a giveaway by Andrew Raycroft and beating the Leafs netminder glove-side with 5:19 remaining, igniting a raucous celebration from the sellout crowd of 18,690 at HSBC Arena.
''He did deliver on his promise,'' said the 26-year-old Ryan, a Boston native. ''I think I jumped about four feet off the ground on the bench when he scored.''
Jason Pominville and Chris Drury scored empty-net goals to send fans happy on the eve of U.S. Thanksgiving.
Maxim Afinogenov, Jiri Novotny and Brian Campbell also scored for the high-flying Sabres, who improved to an NHL-best 18-3-1 and avenged a 4-1 loss here Nov. 4 to the same Leafs.
Tucker had his team-leading 14th and 15th goals while Kyle Wellwood and Jeff O'Neill also replied for the Leafs (12-7-4), who showed some game in erasing a 4-2 deficit and giving the Sabres all they could handle once again this season.
''It was a good game, it was an unfortunate result,'' said Leafs head coach Paul Maurice. ''They had their stretches and we had ours, and I thought we played a heck of a third period.''
Sabres goalie Ryan Miller stopped 32 shots, including a point-blank save on Tucker late in the game with the Leafs on a power play.
The Leafs outshot the Sabres 36-29, including 16-8 in the third, but couldn't capitalize on a quick 2-0 lead. The Sabres erased a two-goal deficit for an amazing seventh time this season.
''We certainly do believe that we can come back,'' said Briere, who leads the Sabres in scoring with 30 points (10-20) in 22 games, ''We've done it a few times this year.''
Referees Brad Meier and Dean Morton called 18 minor penalties, nine to each team, and some of them marginal at best. Ten hooking calls were assessed, seven on the Sabres.
''It's the way it should be called,'' Briere insisted. ''I thought it was one of the better refereed games all year. I really do.''