I'm having trouble deciding how to talk about tonights game. Do I start with Steve Bernier scoring two goals in his Sabres debut, the Ryan Miller scare in the second period, the numerous fights that took place, Andrew Peters scoring a goal (yep you read that right, Andrew Peters scored a goal) or do I start with the Sabres almost blowing another 3-0 lead? I'll start by talking about the Sabres offensive outburst in an 8-4 victory over the visiting Nashville Predators, just one day after many people felt the Sabres were done because of the trade of Brian Campbell.
Everyone was concerned about the Sabres defense after the departure of Brian Campbell but tonight they didn't need good defense because the offense scored eight goals. I have been very critical of the secondary scoring on this team and at least for one night that was not an issue. They received at least one goal from every line tonight and the top two lines had three goals apiece. It's only one game but it is a step in the right direction. The most impressive part of the eight goal outburst is the players that didn't play. Jochen Hecht, Max Afinogenov and Drew Stafford are all out with injuries with no timetable for their return.
As for Steve Bernier, he had a night to remember in his Sabres debut. He scored the games first two goals and the only two of the first period. His first goal as a Sabre came just 4:33 into the game and he added his second just under 10 minutes later to put Buffalo ahead 2-0. Bernier had an opportunity for the hat trick in the third but he shot the puck wide on a partial breakaway. In addition to his two goals Bernier added an assist and came up just short of the "Gordie Howe Hat Trick". Bernier dropped his gloves and had his fist cocked but Predators defenseman Dan Hamuis was shaking his head no and begging for mercy so Bernier decided to skate away.
It was the second game in a row that the Sabres jumped out to a 3-0 lead before allowing the opponent to get back in the game. Jan Hlavac got Nashville on the board 2:46 into the second period when he slid the puck into the open net vacated by the injured Ryan Miller. Miller was struck in the mask by a shot from the point and was down on the ground when Hlavac scored. It was surprising that the officials allowed the play to continue with the goalie injured, especially because later in the game they blew the whistle after Martin Erat was hit by a puck despite the Sabres going on a 2-on-1 break. The Predators narrowed the gap to 3-2 but Andrew Peters put Buffalo ahead by two again. I never thought I would have to say that Peters scored a big goal but it was important because the Preds had all the momentum.
The Predators frustration was eveident in the third period when they amassed 27 penalty minutes including six for Scott Nichol who sucker punched Patrick Kaleta who was tangled with another Predator player. Later in the third Paul Gaustad went after Scott Nichol immediately following a faceoff but Nichol refused to drop the gloves. Jordin Tootoo also showed frustration receiving a total of nine penalty minutes including four on a play that he went after Derek Roy. After Tootoo went after Roy both Steve Bernier and Tim Connolly jumped in and Tootoo ended up with the only penalty.
It was definitely an entertaining game to watch and a game that should give the Sabres alot of confidence. In addition to their eight goal outburst the players came to the defense of their teammates showing some team unity. Bernier and Connolly coming to the aid of Roy, Gaustad going after Nichol for sucker punching Kaleta and even Dmitri Kalinin jumped in after Nichol hit Kaleta. When put into perspective it's only one game but it's a game that this team can build on in their quest for the playoffs. On Friday night the Sabres will welcome the Montreal Canadiens to HSBC Arena and will definitely be going hard for two points.