Before the season started nobody dreamed the Sabres would win the Northeast Division and yet they clinched the title tonight with a 5-2 victory over the New York Rangers in the final home game of the season. If you are a Sabres fan there is no doubt you smiled when the entire team saluted the crowd after clinching the title. After two years of missing the playoffs this was at least a little vindication.
The Sabres came out of the gates with some intensity but an early too many men penalty on Drew Stafford took the momentum away. The Rangers did not convert the power play but they took the lead just minutes later on a goal by Brandon Prust. Prust out-muscled Chris Butler for a puck in front of the net and beat Miller to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead.
The immediate reaction to the early deficit was "here we go again". It was a goal that should have never happened, the Sabres had a couple of opportunities to clear the zone and failed and Prust wanted the puck more than Butler. It was eerily similar to the game on Saturday when the Habs played with more urgency than the Sabres.
The Sabres proved quickly that tonight was going to be different. There was a certain determination in their game and that determination paid off on a power play goal by Roy. Roy rifled a one-timer off the shoulder of Henrik Lundqvist to tie the game for Buffalo.
The power play goal started the Sabres in the right direction but still the score was tied 2-2 at the end of the first period. The Sabres began the second period on the power play but a hooking penalty on Stafford negated the man advantage and gave the Rangers an abbreviated power play. The Sabres were able to withstand the Rangers power play to keep the game tied.
That penalty kill was the key to the hockey game because Jochen Hecht gave the Sabres the lead a couple of minutes later and Lundqvist was pulled in favor of Alex Auld. When Lundqvist left the game it looked the wind was taken out of the sails of the Rangers players. They played like they had already lost and the Sabres took full advantage on their way to a victory and the Division Championship.
- In the grand scheme of things the Northeast Division Championship means absolutely nothing. That doesn't mean it doesn't feel good. This is a team that missed the playoffs in two consecutive seasons and to win something this year is fantastic.
- It was nice to see the Sabres sticking up for each other tonight. Derek Roy went after Rangers players on two separate occasions with the most glaring being his cross check on Ryan Callahan just seconds after Callahan took Myers into the boards from behind.
- Speaking of the hit...It wasn't as dirty of a hit as it looked. Myers made the hit worse by turning his back which made him go face first into the boards. It looked like Callahan left his feet to make the hit but still hit the 6'8" Myers in the shoulder.
- Drew Stafford had a nice game tonight. He went to the box twice with a bonehead too many men penalty and an obvious hooking penalty. I cut him some slack on the hook because some obvious hooks were let go in the first period. Stafford took a nice shot to give the Sabres a 2-1 lead in the second and he had a nice set up to Lydman on the Sabres fourth goal. He played like he wants to be in the lineup come playoff time.
- I don't know what else to say about Tyler Ennis. He had three points tonight and continues to impress me on a nightly basis. I think Lindy Ruff has to find a place for him in the lineup even after Connolly returns from injury.
- Congratulations to the Northeast Division Champion Buffalo Sabres.