TORONTO -- The Buffalo Bandits rallied from three goals down in the fourth quarter to shock Toronto 15-13 on Thursday night and close in on the first-place Rock in the National Lacrosse League's East Division.
Shawn Williams led the way with four goals, John Tavares scored three including an empty-netter with 7.6 seconds left, Aaron Wilson and Jay Thorimbert had two goals each and Jimmy Purves, Dhane Smith, Billy Dee Smith and Scott Self added one each for the 5-3 Bandits.
It was a diversified attack that included a string of fast-break goals in the last quarter that swung the final verdict Buffalo's way.
"We have a lot of new players on the team and a lot more depth," said Tavares, pro lacrosse's all-time leading scorer. "The games we've won this year, we've had a lot of guys pitch in with one or two goals a game.
"That's our philosophy this year. We don't want to rely on just one or two guys. We want everybody to score one or two. It makes us harder to defend when everybody is a threat."
Garrett Billings had four goals and four assists for the Rock (6-3). Colin Doyle, Blaine Manning, Kasey Beirnes and Stephan Leblanc scored two goals each and Josh Sanderson got one.
Buffalo led 4-2 after one quarter and 6-5 after two, and Toronto was up 11-8 after three.
Rock coach Troy Cordingley said the only thing good about his players' performance was a 12-minute span of the third quarter when they scored five consecutive goals to grab a lead.
"Twelve minutes doesn't win you a game," said Cordingley. "We weren't on the same page.
"We were awful in every aspect of the game. We were outworked, outwilled, loose ball retrieval was terrible, didn't get the saves when we needed them -- we were just awful. We have (played) some good lacrosse up (until) now and I guess it was time for a stinker. I don't know why they happen but it happens."
Buffalo tied it 11-11 with three consecutive fast-break goals by Thorimbert, Williams and Billy Dee Smith within 61 seconds at the start of the fourth quarter.
"The boys stepped up," said coach Darris Kilgour. "They knew we needed a spark. We got some chances to push the ball up the floor and they did a great job shooting. We shot a lot better in the fourth quarter than we did in the third."
Billy Dee Smith's big goal came on a breakaway. Nobody laid a stick on him.
"They didn't come to me so I just fired it," he said. "They were kind of slow going off (on a line change) and we took advantage of it."
Williams then gave the Bandits the lead for a fifth time when he beat Rock goalie Nick Rose from a bad angle at 5:41, and Tavares made it 13-11 with a laser from the middle of the Rock zone to a top corner of the net at 8:11.
Doyle ended the five-goal Buffalo run by picking a top corner of the net from the top of a power-play setup at 9:18, but Self got another fast-break Bandits goal by shooting the ball through Rose's legs at 11:01.
Billings replied at 11:50 when his shot sent the ball off goalie Anthony Cosmo's left arm and into the net to shave Buffalo's lead to 14-13. On his next trip down the floor, Billings sent a shot off a goal post.
"Towards the end, I gave that post a little extra rub," said Cosmo. "Those are the ones that go your way sometimes. Our team battled all game. We needed a post to help us out and it worked out."
Toronto had possession with 25 seconds left but a shot went wide of the Buffalo net and Tavares added his empty-netter. He'd been out of the lineup for a month with a strained calf muscle.
"I felt quite exhausted out there," Tavares said afterwards. "I tried to do as much as I could without forcing my game. It felt good to be back."
Cosmo loved watching his teammates score all those fast-break goals in the fourth quarter, especially the 13th and 14th Buffalo goals as supplied by defencemen Billy Dee Smith and Self, who scored the winner with 3:59 left.
"Our defencemen are big, tenacious guys who also have good hands," said Cosmo. "They can bury the ball. That's something our coaching staff instilled this year."
Two teams that in the past have been known for solid defence combined for 28 goals.
"We scored some good transition goals which always swells the totals," said Williams. "We buried chances when we needed to score."
Thorimbert was dominant on faceoffs. Buffalo got possession of the ball on 25 of the 31 draws he took while Stephen Hoar and Sandy Chapman had only occasional success for the Rock.
"(Thorimbert) was our player of the game," said Kilgour. "He did a great job for us. He controlled the game for us. We knew we were going to get a possession every time he went out there. It just gave us confidence to keep going. He also scored two huge goals for us. That's sort of out of character for him so for him to finally get some success in the fast breaks he creates was really big for his confidence."
Notes: The rare midweek game drew a crowd of 8,213 ... Buffalo outshot Toronto 53-47 ... On power plays, Buffalo was 1-for-3 and Toronto was 2-for-5 ... The status of two 37-year-old Buffalo forwards changed this week. Tracey Kelusky was placed on injured reserve and Mat Giles was activated to play his first game of the year ... Toronto deleted F Scott Evans, F Brandon Ivey and D Scott Johnston . . . F Rob Hellyer got to play after not dressing for the two previous Rock games ... Buffalo scratched T Jon Harasym, F Mike Hominuck and F Carter Bender ... Toronto's next game is a home against Colorado next Friday . . . Buffalo plays its second game in two days when the Philadelphia Wings visit First Niagara Center on Friday night.