When Sabres Goalie Ryan Miller was lost to injury in the thrid period on Saturday night, the Patrick Lalime experiment began in Buffalo. The Anaheim Ducks were the first test of the experiment and the team failed to accomplish the goal of getting two points.
There was a nervous tension that was surrounding this game right from the beginning and things went bad in a hurry. Toni Lydman had a horrible giveaway at the Sabres blue line and Teemu Selanne buried a backhander by Lalime to put the Ducks ahead 1-0 only 1:10 into the game.
It wasn't the start the Sabres hoped for but they responded well in front of their underplayed netminder. Buffalo dominated the first period but because of J.S. Giguere the game was tied after 20 minutes.
It was the second period when the Ducks blew the game open. The Ducks went ahead 3-1, in large part, because of poor goaltending from Patrick Lalime. Buffalo native Todd Marchant scored a shorthanded goal that seemed to be a harmless shot that should have been stopped. As the second period was winding down the Ducks put the game away on a wrap around goal by Mike Brown. Patrick Lalime was out of position and never seen Brown come around the net to score the goal.
The Sabres scored a late power play goal but it never really felt they were back in the game. The Ducks managed to kill off the remaining time and beat the Sabres 3-2.
Lalime Not Good Enough
Patrick Lalime may bounce back and play an outstanding game on Thursday night but tonight he was not good enough. Lalime made only 16 saves on 19 shots and two of the three Ducks goals were of the weak variety. The Ducks goals had little to do with luck or even skill, they had everything to do with the poor play of the Sabres fill-in Goalie.
Lalime looked slow when he was moving from side-to-side and he was often out of position. If he plays the way he did tonight, the Sabres are going to struggle to remain in the playoff hunt while Miller is recovering from his ankle injury.
I a get sick of talking about the special teams because they become such a big story in every game. Tonight was a little different in some respects. The Sabres scored a power play goal and their other goal was scored just one second after an Anaheim penalty expired. The Sabres had a successful night on the power play except one major mishap. Todd Marchant beat Patrick Lalime with a slap shot while shorthnaded and it gave the Ducks the lead and the momentum. The Sabres night was as good as over when that goal went in the net.
In other special teams news...the Ducks failed to convert on three power play opportunities. The Sabres have been struggling on the penalty kill lately and will need more games like tonight if they are to contend for a playoff spot.
Kotalik a Factor
Ales Kotalik scored a third period power play goal, giving him 13 on the season. Kotalik was also a fcator in the Sabres fitrst goal. He fired a slap shot from the point and Paul Gaustad tipped it in front. Kotalik also hit a goal post while the Sabres were on the power play in the second period.
For all the good that Ales Kotalik can do, it was a play in the third period that defines the career of Ales Kotalik. He was trying to break out of his own zone and he made a lazy attempt to jab at the puck. Because of what appeared to be a lack of effort, he had his stick easily smacked out of his hands and the play truned back in to the Sabres zone.
As always thanks to everyone that came in to chat during the game tonight. I expect that the game thread will really start to build steam as we head towards the playoffs.
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The Sabres have a huge game on Thursday night as they head to Carolina to take on the Hurricanes. The Canes are currently only a point behind the Sabres in the standings and will be looking for the opportunity to leap the Sabres in the standings.