I almost feel bad for Florida Panthers fans that had to endure the complete and utter embarrassment of this game tonight. The Sabres completely dominated the final 40 minutes and outshot the Panthers 31-5 over the final two periods and 41-15 in the game.
A couple of days ago we were wondering how the offensively challenged Sabres would fare without two of their leading scorers (Tim Connolly, Thomas Vanek) in the lineup. Tonight we watched six different players score in a 6-2 Buffalo Sabres victory. Three of the six goals came from rookies. Tim Kennedy scored his 10th of the season, Nathan Gerbe netted his second on the power play and Tyler Ennis scored on a nice wrap around for his second of the season.
Despite the Sabres domination, this game looked bleak in the beginning. Once again the Sabres gave up an early lead on a goal by Jeff Taffe only 1:51 into the game. My first reaction was a simple "here we go again", in reference to the Sabres propensity to fall behind early in games. The Sabres quickly put that talk to rest on a goal by Jason Pominville and Tim Kennedy gave the Sabres the lead before the first period ended.
The Sabres led after 20 minutes but they were anything but dominant. They gave pucks away in their own zone and gave the Panthers plenty of opportunities to remain in the hockey game. I have no idea what was said in the locker room between periods but it worked because the Sabres began their domination in the second and gave themselves a comfortable 4-1 lead after two.
The skeptics will still point to the schedule and the teams the Sabres have been successful against recently, but while the Sabres were dominating the Panthers, the Penguins were shutout at home against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Sabres have now moved into second place in the Eastern Conference and they still have a game in hand on the Penguins.
There are six more games left in the regular season for the Sabres to use as a tune up for the playoffs. They need four points to clinch the Northeast Division and now have the inside track for second place in the Conference.
- Nathan Gerbe and Tyler Ennis didn't seem out of place on the ice tonight. This was a regular season game against a team that is out of playoff contention but if they continue to play well you have to wonder if they can crack the lineup in the playoffs. I still think they will be sent back down when Connolly and Vanek come back but it is a nice insurance policy to have those guys waiting in the wings.
- Ryan Miller had a relatively easy night with only 15 shots faced. I wonder if Lindy will go right back to him tomorrow in Toronto.
- What are the Sabres chances of finishing second in the Eastern Conference? The Pens have five games left, if they go 4-1 the Sabres will need to go 4-2 to take second place. It's not out of the realm of possibility but I still think it will be difficult to beat out the Pens for the second spot.