Maple Leafs 7, Sabres 0

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TORONTO – Nik Antropov scored twice in a five-goal first period and the Toronto Maple Leafs routed the Buffalo Sabres 7-0 Saturday night.

Toronto took a 4-0 lead in the first 6:24 as Jeff O’Neill, Ian White, Tie Domi and Antropov scored.

Buffalo has gone 1-7-1 since its season-high eighth straight win against Toronto on March 16. The Sabres needed a point or an Atlanta loss Saturday night to clinch their first playoff berth since 2000-01.

Alexei Ponikarovsky had a goal and two assists and Matt Stajan also scored for the Maple Leafs, winners of three straight and five of seven.

Toronto began the day in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, well out of the eighth and final spot, and in serious danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since 1997-98.

Jean-Sebastien Aubin made 22 saves for his first shutout of the season and the seventh of his career.

Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff replaced goalie Ryan Miller after he allowed three goals on six shots. Martin Biron came in and allowed Domi to score on the first shot he faced.

Miller replaced Biron to start the second. He allowed four goals on 12 shots.

O’Neill gave Toronto a 1-0 lead at 2:05 of the first after Buffalo’s Tim Connolly turned the puck over in his own end. Alex Steen made a centering pass to O’Neill, who put a weak shot past Miller.

White scored his first career NHL goal after his shot deflected off Buffalo defenseman Rory Fitzpatrick’s skate and in at 4:49.

Less than a minute later, Domi – standing at the side of the net – tipped a shot past Biron.

Just 58 seconds later Antropov tipped a shot with the shaft of his stick – the fastest span they’ve scored four goals this season .

Antropov made it 5-0 at 15:20 with a shot from in from of the net as he was falling down.

Ponikarovsky made it 6-0 at 4:43 of the third with a wrist shot that beat Miller on the glove side.

Notes: Buffalo co-captain Daniel Briere served the second game of a two-game suspension for high-sticking Brian Leetch. … The Leafs were well-rested for the game, having been off since a 3-2 victory over Philadelphia on Tuesday. … The Sabres were 4-1 against Toronto this season before this loss. They had outscored the Leafs 25-13. … Wade Belak tussled with Buffalo’s Paul Gaustad after Stajan scored Toronto’s seventh goal. Belak landed more punches.

AP-ES-04-01-06 2132EST

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