Sabres eliminated from playoffs


BUFFALO N.Y. (AP) -- So much for the questions about Ed Belfour's
aching back and advancing age.

Just in time for the playoffs, Belfour stopped 17 shots to
record his 74th career shutout in Toronto's 2-0 win over Buffalo on
Friday night. In keeping the Maple Leafs' chances alive to win the
Northeast Division title, Belfour posted his ninth shutout of the
season to match a career high. It was his third blanking in 14
starts since he returned after missing eight games with back

"Who said age is a handicap? The guy's unbelievable," Maple
Leafs forward Alexander Mogilny said. "It comes down to
preparation and dedication to the game. I've never seen anybody in
his position work as hard as he does."

And it's performances such as these from Belfour, who turns 39
later this month, that have provided the Maple Leafs with a boost.

"The team is so confident when he's in the net," Mogilny said.
"When Eddie's on like tonight, it gives us an extra push out

Chad Kilger scored 5:46 into the third period and Joe Nieuwendyk
had an empty-net goal for Toronto, which set a franchise record by
earning its 101st point of the season.

With two days left in the season, the Maple Leafs still don't
know where they'll finish as four points separate second and sixth

Toronto, in fifth place, closes its season at Ottawa on
Saturday. The Maple Leafs trail Ottawa and Boston by a point.

One thing's for certain, the Sabres will miss the playoffs for a
franchise record third straight season. They were eliminated when
the New York Islanders beat Carolina.

"There's no good feeling about not making the playoffs, but
it's one heck of a better feeling this year than last year,"
Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said.

Ruff was referring to last season's uncertainty in which the
franchise declared bankruptcy in January and finished with 27
victories, the team's fewest in 31 years. The future looks brighter
for the Sabres, who have a strong owner in B. Thomas Golisano. They
will finish with at least 37 victories, the most since they won 46
in 2000-01 -- the last time the team qualified for the playoffs.

The Sabres close out their season at Montreal on Saturday.

Toronto had the best scoring chances and was outshooting Buffalo
23-14 before the game's first goal.

Kilger finally found a way to beat Martin Biron, converting Ron
Francis' rebound. After Biron stopped the first shot from the slot,
the puck caromed directly to Kilger, who snapped it in the open

The goal came two minutes after Biron got a glove up to foil
Gary Roberts from the right circle, and a minute after Nik Antropov
banged a shot off the post from in close.

Nieuwendyk sealed it with 17.2 seconds remaining.

Kilger, claimed off waivers on March 9, was happy to help,
particularly playing alongside Francis and Mogilny.

"Those guys create a lot of offensive things out there and I'm
just trying to get in front of the net and create traffic," Kilger
said. "I just wanted to show I could contribute."

Belfour moved within one shutout of New Jersey's Martin Brodeur,
who leads active goalies with 75. He has 434 career victories, one
shy of Jacques Plante -- third on the NHL career list.

"It's great to see him get that win and get his name mentioned
alongside Jacques Plante," Francis said. "That's a heck of an

Game notes
Linesman Ray Scapinello officiated his NHL record 2,500th
and last regular-season game. Although he might call some playoff
games, Scapinello, 57, is retiring after this, his 33rd season.
Before the game, he was presented with a picture montage that
included the original game sheet from his first game, when Buffalo
hosted the Minnesota North Stars on Oct. 17, 1971. ... Leafs RW
Mikael Renberg returned after missing seven games with a hamstring
injury. ... The game was also the 1,427th and last for referee
Terry Gregson, who is retiring after a 23-year career.