Tonight was as good of a game as I have seen this team play all season. Buffalo wasn't necessarily the better team the whole evening but they played really hard against a really good team. It is something we haven't seen from this team all year, an entire 60 minutes of hockey that seemed to get better as the game wore on.
The turning point of the game was the start of the third period. Buffalo trailed 3-2 on the scoreboard and Pittsburgh had a 5-on-3 advantage. Pittsburgh didn't score and didn't even register a shot on goal during that power play. The momentum immediately turned in the Sabres direction and they scored twice to earn their second consecutive victory.
Pittsburgh has been great in the third period all season but Buffalo outscored them 2-0 in the final frame and out shot them 10-3 in the period. It seemed like the puck was in the Pittsburgh zone for like 15 minutes in the final period and if not for great goaltending from John Curry, Buffalo may have scored four times in the period.
The list of players that played well tonight is extensive. It seemed like the best players on the ice for Buffalo were guys that have not played well recently. Max Afinogenov was the most noticeable guy on the ice and played his best game of the season. Drew Stafford and Paul Gaustad had two goals each despite their recent struggles. Thomas Vanek played through an injury he suffered on Wednesday and set up the tying goal with a pretty pass. The list goes on and on if I wanted to continue.
The post game questions from the media centered around two specific topics. Is this a game where the Sabres turned the corner on their recent struggles and was it difficult to deal with the suspect officiating?
The first question presented was did the Sabres turn the corner? The quick answer is yes they did...they just beat two of the best teams in the Eastern Conference and had their best all around game of the season tonight. Lindy Ruff said after the game..."you know what, the entire season is a grind" "it's easy to pinpoint this game but the season will be full of ups-and-downs and you just have to battle every game". That really sums it up completely. They could come out and play a stinker tomorrow and this game won't mean a whole lot.
On to the second question...the one about the suspect officiating. Let's just hope that we don't see Eric Furlatt and Dean Morton listed as the referees for too many more Sabres games. They were brutal the whole night, missing numerous calls on both teams while calling some softies both ways as well. It's a shame that we have to talk about the officiating after any game but this one in particular because it was a great hockey game.
Extra Notes and Thoughts
- Not sure if it was the Sabres good penalty killing or the Penguins poor power play but the Pens were 0-for-7 on the power play (although they scored 4-on-4).
- Is Patrick Kaleta a marked man? He took three penalties tonight and I thought at least one was a questionable call.
- Toni Lydman is quietly having a great season...he led the Sabres with six hits and even more importantly seven blocked shots
- The Sabres out hit the Pens 26-12 and the defensemen had 16 of the 26 hits.
- Is it just me or does Sidney Crosby own Ryan Miller? He scored two more goals tonight and made Miller look bad on the second one.