By Mike Harrington
PHILADELPHIA -- Sabres GM Tim Murray has said repeatedly he wants to see the depleted Rochester Amerks sneak into the AHL playoffs so his prospects can get the experience of postseason play. Murray helped put together a Binghamton team that won the Calder Cup in 2011, so he knows the value of getting prospects playing into June.
It was looking bleak for the Amerks, however, as an 0-7-2 slide dropped them into 10th place in the AHL's Western Conference. But they've bounced back to win three straight and move into seventh, and Saturday's stunning 4-3 win at Toronto could be the game that ultimately proves the difference in their chase.
The Amerks trailed their perennial nemesis, 3-0, after two periods before outshooting them, 19-3, and pulling out a wild victory. Tim Schaller collected a natural hat trick to tie the game, with the third goal coming with 58 seconds left. Just 15 seconds later, Phil Varone got the winner on a slapshot. Mikhail Grigorenko, who is looking good so far in the AHL, had two assists in the game,
The Amerks have 76 points with six games left. Oklahoma City has 75 points with six left and is currently in the No. 8 slot. Rockford (six left) and Charlotte (five left) also have 75. Rochester is off until hosting Toronto Friday night to open a crucial set of three games in three nights that will take it to Hamilton on Saturday and Lake Erie on Sunday.
Here are the highlights of the Amerks' win. The Rochester goals begin at the 2:35 mark of the video.