This game had all the makings of another Buffalo loss and a disappointing end to the season but the Sabres never quit and instead it was one of the most memorable games of the season.
When the Sabres were trailing 2-1 after two periods their chances of a comeback seemed dim because of their recent third period struggles. They grew even dimmer early in the third period. The Panthers went ahead 3-1 on a goal that was credited to Michael Frolik although it may have been gloved in by Brett Maclean (In fairness to the officials...it was very difficult to tell).
Sensing the season was on the line, the Sabres turned up the heat on the Florida Panthers. The Sabres started firing shots from all directions and finally Jason Pominville tipped a Henrik Tallinder shot by Vokoun. After the Pominville goal there was sudenly some hope and I was literally yelling at the TV for MacArthur to shoot just before he tied the game. The Sabres were passing up those chances in the first two periods and proved that shooting the puck on net is a really good idea.
The playoff hopes are still dim but they live to see another day. A win will have everyone feeling good and now Ryan Miller is expected back in goal on Friday night. That should spark the team but more importantly it will give the fans some hope.
Third Period Heroics
Many people have been questioning the heart and the character of this team and tonight they proved that there was no quit in this team. The effort tonight was no better than it was on Friday and Saturday but the result was much better. The three goals in just over two minutes have the Sabres fan base buzzing and they even said on the broadcast that a fan said "I miss this team". We had grown accustomed to wins like this and it was nice to see again this season.
For all the praise I am giving the Sabres, it is important to remember the opponent. The Florida Panthers have been just as bad as the Buffalo Sabres recently and they have a knack for losing third period leads as well.
Special Teams Bounce back
The Sabres have relied upon their special teams all season and they have both struggled recently. Tonight was a different story and it was the story. The Sabres took advantage of a power play in the first period to tie the score 1-1 with less than a minute left in tthe period. The Sabres also scored the winning goal with the man advantage. The penalty killing was really good but even more important was staying out of the box. Florida only had two man advantages and they failed to convert on each of them.
Keith Ballard is a Scum Bag
When Max Afinogenov scored the game winning goal into an open net it sparked a mini-brawl. Nathan Horton took most of the blame for starting the melee from the Sabres broadcast team (RJ and Harry) and the officials who assesed him a double-minor but it was Keith Ballard that gave Max a cheapshot. Ballard skated across half the ice to throw a shot at the head of Afinogenov and Max took a hit from Horton just after that.
The Sabres responded to what they (and I) considered a cheap hit and Rivet went after Ballard immediately. Earlier in the game Ballard threw a punch into the face of Jochen Hecht after a whistle near the Panthers net.
The hit was not all that vicious but it was the way that it was done that was disappointing. Ballard is guy that plays a tough physical style and a player I HAD the utmost respect for...I've changed my mind, he is a scum bag.
Robitaille is a Non-Analyst
I often disagree with the opinions of Mike Robitaille during the intermission and on the Shootout but tonight he crossed the line. Tonight he proved what an idiot he really is. The cameras showed that Lindy Ruff and Max Afinogenov were in a shouting match of sorts on the bench. Rob Ray immediatley pointed to the fact that Max had a shift that was over two minutes long. Luckily for us Harry Neale mentioned that the entire shift was in the defensive zone and there was nothing he could do until they cleared the puck.
Anyway...Robitaille went on-and-on about his two minute shift and how it was unacceptable. Did he forget that there were four other players on the ice for the same ammount of time? It was pretty obvious that the argument was about something specific to the play and not the long shift because they never had a chance to get off the ice. Lindy Ruff did clarify after the game that he wanted him to be smarter with the puck at the end of the shift.
Harry Neale Quote of the Game
"Buffalo is running around in their own end like pregnant foxes in a forrest fire"
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The Sabres are hoping for the return of Ryan Miller on Friday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Game Time on Friday night is 7:30 at the HSBC Arena.