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, N.Y. (AP) The Buffalo Bills were so dull during their lean years, comedian Nick Bakay feared his body would fuse to the couch while watching them play.”It’s an incredibly disturbing image,” Bakay said of wasting away Sundays witnessing his hometown team sleepwalk through one loss after another during a 17-season playoff drought that ended last year.”I never missed a Bills game. But I was always slumped on my couch. I was never sitting forward. I was never jumping to my feet,” said Bakay, who wrote ”Paul Blart: Mall Cop” and its sequel, and produced and appeared on the TV sitcom ”King of Queens.” ”You sit on your couch, and your couch slowly eats you.”No different for fans of Buffalo’s other pro sports franchise, the NHL’s Sabres, who finished last for the third time in five years and extended their franchise-worst playoff drought to a seventh season.In a shot-and-a-beer town where the winters are interminably long, Buffalo sports fans ride things out on the notion of renewal always being just around the corner.And there’s a new, palpable optimism for this hearty fan base, thanks to a three-day stretch which showed potential to alter the trajectory of both teams.First, the Bills made a pair of splashes in the first round of the NFL draft on April 26 by trading up to select Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen and Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds.Two days later, the Sabres won the NHL draft lottery – something Buffalo lost the previous two times it finished last – and the opportunity to select projected No. 1 pick, Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin.During the NFL draft, CBS Evening News anchor Jeff Glor got dirty looks from his wife during a rare dinner date sneaking peeks at the Bills’ picks. He then yelped with excitement upon learning the Sabres won the lottery while attending the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in Washington.”I had just resigned myself to never winning it,” Glor said. ”But listen, I always have hope.”In Buffalo, there’s a fine line between affection and affliction for hope.”I always try to keep it in check a little bit,” said Glor, who grew up in the Buffalo suburb of Tonawanda.”Unfortunately, you get conditioned to where there are times you can be defeatist. And you try not to be. But you just don’t give up.”Fans have little choice but to persevere in a place where nickname-worthy moments are tied to losses.For the Bills, it’s ”Wide Right Womens Scott Darling Jersey
,” after kicker Scott Norwood missed a last-second field-goal attempt in a 20-19 loss to the New York Giants in the 1991 Super Bowl – the first of four consecutive Super Bowl losses.For the Sabres, it’s ”No Goal,” following a 2-1, triple-overtime loss to Dallas in Game 6 of the 1999 Stanley Cup Final. Brett Hull’s Cup-clinching goal stood even though replays showed his skate in the crease.Those were the so-called glory days.The Bills and Sabres have won five playoff games combined since 2008. By comparison, the NHL’s expansion Vegas Golden Knights have already won eight in their first year of existence.Buffalo joins Nashville, Tennessee, and Charlotte, North Carolina, as the only North American markets with two or more major pro teams to not have won a title.”I think it builds character in a way. I joke with my friends that one day my kids will have to go through therapy because we are Sabres, Bills and Mets fans,” said former VH1-cable TV chief Tom Calderone, who’s from Long Island, New York, but got his broadcasting start in Buffalo and maintains a home in the city. ”It’s easy to be a Cowboys fan or a Patriots fan. But it takes true dedication to be a Bills or Sabres fan.”Calderone sees more hope reflected in signs of resurgence for the city itself.The former site of the Erie Canal has been transformed from vacant gravel lots to parkland, a water park that doubles as an ice rink in winter, and an entertainment/hockey complex built by Bills and Sabres owner Terry Pegula.Housing prices have tripled and a medical corridor is newly bustling along Main Street, where shuttered and boarded-up buildings have been renovated or replaced by new steel and glass structures.Buffalo still has its rust-belt blemishes as one of the nation’s poorest cities. Racial inequities, failing schools and a crumbling infrastructure remain issues.The Bills and Sabres aren’t immune to troubling headlines. Last week, the two teams’ president Russ Brandon resigned amid allegations of having inappropriate relationships with female employees.Buffalo might never regain the industrial-age prominence it held in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when the city became a Great Lakes shipping hub as the gateway to the Erie Canal.Nor, however, should it become the punchline comedian Jon Stewart once delivered during a stop in Buffalo, calling the city the gateway to the Ontario border town of Fort Erie just across the Niagara River – population 30 Youth Sebastian Aho Jersey
,000.Watching a documentary on former Bills running back O.J. Simpson, Bakay was reminded of the gloomy times in the 1970s when the steel mills began closing and legions of people left to find jobs.”It depressed me so much,” he said. ”Every shot of Buffalo looked like a moose that farted into the sky.”The decline led to Buffalo investing its psyche into its sports teams as a way of remaining part of the national conversation.”Our teams were the only way we could punch back and say, `Yeah, we’re here,”’ Bakay said.Allen and the prospect of adding Dahlin have recaptured his imagination as to what’s possible.”It’s like all of a sudden we’ve got go-big-or-go-home-talent coming our way,” Bakay said.He recalled how the Bills once pinned their hopes on quarterback Trent Edwards, who earned the nickname ”Captain Checkdown” for being overly cautious.”After years of the Trent Edwards of the world, we get a kid who has that kind of talent,” Bakay said.Maybe, he’ll finally be able to get off that couch.”I don’t think we need any kind of help of, `Can we believe?’ We can believe in a bag of doughnuts,” Bakay said. ”But that weekend was like, `Oh my god. Things are really happening. Pinch me.”’—This story has been corrected to note Tom Calderone is from Long Island, New York. BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Auston Matthews scored his second goal with three seconds on the clock in overtime, and the Toronto Maple Leafs matched their best start in 84 years with a 4-3 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night.The Maple Leafs won their fifth straight game and improved to 20-8. The only other time it took them just 28 games to reach 20 wins was when they opened the 1934-35 season at 20-6-2.Patrick Marleau scored with 5:13 remaining in regulation to force overtime, and Kasperi Kapanen set up the decisive goal. Jake Gardiner also scored and Mitchell Marner had an assist to give him 11 in five games. Frederik Andersen stopped 38 shots to win his fourth straight.Jack Eichel scored twice for Buffalo, which dropped to 0-2-2 since equaling the franchise record with a 10-game winning streak. Sam Reinhart had a goal and an assist.GOLDEN KNIGHTS 5, CAPITALS 3LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nate Schmidt scored twice in the final two minutes to lift Vegas over Washington in a rematch of the Stanley Cup final last spring.It was the first time Washington skated at T-Mobile Arena since winning and hoisting the Stanley Cup in June.Schmidt burst through the neutral zone and beat goalie Braden Holtby with a tiebreaking wrist shot with 1:24 left for his first goal of the season. The former Capital added an empty-netter moments later.Ryan Reaves, Pierre Edouard-Bellemare and Cody Eakin also scored for the Golden Knights. Marc-Andre Fleury made 23 saves.Jakub Vrana had two goals and Alex Ovechkin scored for Washington. Holtby also stopped 23 shots.PENGUINS 6, AVALANCHE 3PITTSBURGH (AP) — Patric Hornqvist’s natural hat trick in the third period powered Pittsburgh past Colorado.The Avalanche had erased a three-goal deficit to tie the game going into the third when Hornqvist went to work.His power-play goal 6:11 into the final period gave the Penguins the lead. Hornqvist beat Semyon Varlamov again 1:21 later to push Pittsburgh’s advantage to two, and the veteran from Sweden completed the hat trick on his next shift when he fired a wrist shot by Varlamov less than 90 seconds later.Jake Guentzel Authentic Teuvo Teravainen Jersey
, Evgeni Malkin and Derick Brassard also scored for the Penguins, who halted Colorado’s 11-game point streak. Kris Letang added two assists, and Casey DeSmith made 42 saves.Tyson Barrie, Carl Soderberg and Matt Nieto scored for the Avalanche, who had their six-game road win streak snapped.LIGHTNING 6, RED WINGS 5, SODETROIT (AP) — Nikita Kucherov and defenseman Victor Hedman scored in a shootout to give Tampa Bay a comeback win over Detroit.The Lightning, who have won seven of eight, erased a 5-3 deficit in the third period and overcame Frans Nielsen’s hat trick.Mathieu Joseph had two goals and an assist for Tampa Bay. Steven Stamkos, J.T. Miller and Cedric Paquette also scored.Ryan Callahan had two assists and Edward Pasquale made 19 saves to win his NHL debut. He stopped Nielsen and Thomas Vanek in the tiebreaker.Despite the shootout goal, Kucherov’s 10-game point streak came to an end.Nielsen scored three times for his second career hat trick. Gustav Nyquist scored twice for the Red Wings, plus a shootout goal.JETS 3, ISLANDERS 1NEW YORK (AP) — Jacob Trouba and Adam Lowry scored 22 seconds apart early in the third period to rally Winnipeg over New York.Nikolaj Ehlers added an empty-net goal with 2.1 seconds left and Connor Hellebuyck stopped 27 shots as Winnipeg won for the fifth time in six games. The Jets have three straight road wins for the first time this season after completing a sweep of their three-game trip to the New York area.Anders Lee scored for the Islanders, who have lost three of four.PANTHERS 5, BRUINS 0SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Roberto Luongo made 33 saves in his 77th career shutout, Mike Hoffman scored twice and Florida blanked Boston.Luongo, who returned to the lineup after missing five games with a knee injury, passed Ed Belfour and Tony Esposito for sole possession of ninth place on the NHL’s shutout list.Jonathan Huberdeau had a goal and two assists, while Mike Matheson and Evgenii Dadonov also scored. Aleksander Barkov had three assists and Keith Yandle added two.Jaroslav Halak stopped 39 shots as the Panthers had a season-high 44 shots on goal. The Bruins lost for the third time in four games.FLAMES 9, BLUE JACKETS 6COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Johnny Gaudreau had two goals and two assists, and Calgary scored five times in the second period to rally past Columbus.Cam Atkinson netted a hat trick to extend his point streak to 11 games Womens Victor Rask Jersey
, but the Blue Jackets lost their second straight.Sean Monahan also had two goals and two assists for Calgary, which scored five straight goals for a 6-4 lead during the second period. Monahan opened that barrage 1:55 into the second, and Elias Lindholm, Matthew Tkachuk, Noah Hanifin and TJ Brodie followed with goals. Tkachuk, Hanifin and Brodie scored in a span of 1:53.Monahan, Gaudreau and Austin Czarnik each scored in the third period for Calgary.David Rittich and Mike Smith combined to stop 24 shots for the Flames. Calgary earned a point in its fifth straight game to stay atop the Pacific Division and improved to 17-9-2.Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 18 of 26 shots before being replaced in the third period by Joonas Korpisalo.Zach Werenski, Josh Anderson and Nick Foligno also scored for Columbus.CANADIENS 5, SENATORS 2MONTREAL (AP) — Max Domi had two goals and an assist and Jonathan Drouin added a goal and two assists as Montreal defeated Ottawa.Artturi Lehkonen and Brendan Gallagher also scored for the Canadiens, who won for the second time in eight games. Carey Price stopped 28 shots.Mark Stone and Dylan DeMelo scored for the Senators, whose three-game winning streak was halted. Craig Anderson made 36 saves.WILD 3, CANUCKS 2VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Jason Zucker broke a tie late in the second period and Minnesota scored on all three of its power plays, beating the staggering Vancouver Canucks to stop a three-game slide.Ryan Suter and Zach Parise also scored for the Wild. Devan Dubnyk made 29 saves and Mikael Granlund had two assists.Josh Leivo scored on his first shot in a Canucks uniform. Tyler Motte also had a goal for Vancouver, which has lost 12 of 13. Anders Nilsson stopped 25 shots.COYOTES 2, KINGS 1LOS ANGELES (AP) — Nick Schmaltz had a power-play goal, Adin Hill made 25 saves for his fourth straight win and Arizona beat Los Angeles.Lawson Crouse scored a short-handed goal for the Coyotes, undefeated since acquiring Schmaltz in a trade with Chicago on Nov. 25. Hill has stopped 84 of 86 shots since replacing an injured Antti Raanta to start the third period at Minnesota on Nov. 27.Alec Martinez scored and Jonathan Quick made 18 saves for the Kings, held to two goals or fewer in five consecutive games.Dustin Brown appeared to have scored the tying goal with 56.4 seconds remaining, but it was immediately waived off because his stick was over his head when he tipped the puck in.