The Buffalo Sabres outlasted the Calgary Flames for a 2-1 shootout win in one of the most entertaining hockey games of the year. It is games like this one that helped me fall in love with hockey many years ago. It's a shame that one of these teams had to lose and fortunately for the Sabres they came away with the victory. Both teams battled in what turned out to be an extremely physical hockey game.
If the Sabres were hoping to build off their victory against Edmonton they have a funny way of showing it. It took Calgary exactly 1:04 to get a 1-0 lead in Buffalo. Daymond Langkow deflected a perfect pass from Nigel Dawes by Miller and this game had all the makings of a long night for Buffalo.
The Sabres had other ideas and played the best period we have seen them play the entire season. Adam Mair returned to the lineup after being waived on Monday and sparked the team early with a spirited bout with Brandon Prust.
The Sabres poured on the pressure but it takes a perfect play to beat Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff. That perfect play finally happened with the Sabres on the power play. Derek Roy lifted the puck over a sprawling Kiprusoff with 3:06 remaining in the first. Roy had another opportunity in the final five seconds but Kipper made a couple of saves to send the teams to the locker room tied 1-1.
The second period was short on goals but not short on excitement. The second period parade to the penalty box that took place on Wednesday had a repeat performance tonight. Buffalo was called for three consecutive penalties and none of them appeared to be penalties. The Sabres killed off all three Flames power plays but the momentum swing was evident. The Sabres didn't get their first shot on goal until there was around five minutes left in the period.
Both teams pressed in the third period but solid defense and goaltending at both ends forced the game to overtime. Te teams traded quality chances in the first minute and failed. The best chances were by Buffalo after Olli Jokinen went to the box on a marginal tripping call but Calgary blocked three or four shots and Kiprusoff made every save.
Three shooters wasn't enough to decide the game with Derek Roy scoring for Buffalo and Jokinen scoring for Calgary. Jason Pominville converted his chance and Ryan Miller stopped Rene Bourque to give a Buffalo a 2-1 victory.
Sabres Show Physical Side
Mike Grier was brought to Buffalo for veteran leadership and physical toughness. There was concern the Sabres would miss him in the lineup in what figured to be a physical game. They proved tonight that they would stand up to any team in the league. They were credited with 25 hits in the game and of course Patrick Kaleta led the way with six. In addition to the team toughness, Adam Mair and Paul Gaustad both dropped the gloves when they needed to.
Many people questioned the teams toughness after back-to-back losses and they did nothing to squash that criticism on Wednesday. They changed all of that tonight by playing physical from the outset. It's still only one game and they have plenty to prove, beginning tomorrow night against the tough Philadelphia Flyers.
Roy Plays His Best Game
Derek Roy scored the only Sabres regulation goal and he added a goal in the shootout on a pretty move. It wasn't his goal scoring that was most impressive, it was his fierce forechecking and relentless pressure that impressed me tonight.
Roy can be a great player when he gives 100% but getting him to that level has been difficult. ou have to wonder what conversations he had with Lindy Ruff before the game tonight because he played like the player we know he can be but don't see enough of.
Goalies Rule the Day
We knew the Sabres would struggle to score goals on Miikka Kiprusoff and he lived up to his billing. As good as Kipper was, it was Ryan Miller that had last laugh when he stopped Bourque to give the Sabres the shootout win. Kipper finished with 32 saves and stopped 2-of-4 in the shootout while Miller stopped the last 26 saves he faced and 3-of-4 in the shootout.
The Sabres try to end there bad luck in the second game of a back-to-back when they play in Philadelphia tomorrow night. This will be the second game between these two teams in the last eight days. The Flyers embarrassed the Sabres at HSBC Arena last Friday night.