Drew Stafford came to play tonight. The oft-maligned Sabres winger put forth his best effort of the season, tallying two goals and an assist, and he was in on a number of other scoring chances. He was, by far, Buffalo's best player on the ice, and deservedly earned the first star.
Stafford could not, however, overcome the firepower that the Florida Panthers brought with them to the First Niagara Center, which went along with a heaping helping of luck, and the Sabres fell to the Panthers 4-3.
Florida scored three deflected goals tonight, two off of their own players and one off of either Mike Weber or Christian Ehrhoff's stick, and never relinquished the lead despite a furious third period effort from the Sabres. Ryan Miller was clearly frustrated with the proceedings, becoming visibly upset after allowing the third Florida goal on a long shot, deflected by his own defensemen. "I was not in good spots on the first two, and the third one you just throw your hands up," said Miller. "[Jovanovski] was going completely for the other side of the net."
Miller simply was not on his game tonight. He fought the puck all night long, and aside from the four goals, Miller let three other shots get behind him - only two posts and a questionable whistle saved the Sabres from going down 6-2 in the first 30 minutes. The Panthers did get the aforementioned deflections, and their fourth goal by Bjugstad's goal was a shot nobody was going to stop, but it was a disappointing effort when you'd hope, for Miller's Olympic sake, that he'd be playing at his absolute best.
The Sabres poured it on in the third period, but couldn't put anything past Tim Thomas despite getting a 4-on-3 power play and an extra two minutes thanks to a bloody high stick. They outshot Florida 16-4 in the period (35-22 in the game) and while a number of their chances just trickled wide, Thomas made some nice saves on a Cody Hodgson breakaway and a Matt Moulson spinning backhand to keep Florida in the lead.
It was, overall, a disappointingly inconsistent effort from the Sabres, especially being the rested squad facing a team that just played last night. If you notice that we haven't mentioned anything yet about the second period, that's because the Sabres (and the Panthers) fell asleep for 20 minutes, an effort which Ted Nolan chastised them for in his post-game presser. The Sabres will try to put together a better effort against a tired opponent when they face Carolina on Thursday.
2. Can the Sabres tighten up their defense?
While their shot differential was very good tonight, Nolan was unhappy with the team's gap control, and Steve Ott spoke about how the deflected goals don't happen with better positioning by the Sabres.
3. How will the team respond to Konopka's benching?
They seem to have gotten Ted Nolan's message, as the team took only two penalties all game, both of which they killed off.
1. Drew Stafford - 2g, 1a on 5 shots. Big game
2. Ed Jovanovski - 1g, 1a
3. Steve Ott - 1g, 1a
Comment of the Game
Was like the NHL version of the NBA. Defense is for losers.
Miller's not going to stop every shot forever? Boo.