The Buffalo Sabres final home game before the Olympic break was the optimal game to combine a bunch of Olympic storylines all together. It's a matchup of Ryan Miller and Sidney Crosby, mainly made famous by the golden goal scored in Vancouver; it's the final chance for Miller to showcase why he should start in Sochi; and the game was a nationally televised game which was on the same network that covers the Olympics .The game started with a pregame ceremony honoring all of Olympians from both teams. The Sabres honored each of their own Olympians with a personalized country jersey,
The first period saw a game that had glimpses of being competitive. The Sabres got on the board first with a Drew Stafford goal that featured him just cleaning up in front of the net. The goal is Stafford's ninth of the season and his second straight game with a goal. Tyler Ennis registered the lone assist on the goal and has registered at least one point in four of the last five games. The Sabres lead lasted for only ten minutes as Harry Zolnierczyk scored his second goal of the season. Zolnierczyk was recently called up from Wilkes Barre/Scranton and only has ten games played with the Penguins.
The second period saw the Penguins skill just start to shine through. First, it was Sidney Crosby scoring his 28th goal of the season on the power play just 2:08 into the period. Crosby just split Mike Weber and Brian Flynn on his way to the net and tucked the puck just under the crossbar past Miller. The goal snapped Crosby's five game goalless drought and continued his streak of scoring at least one point in every game he's played in Western New York, 14 in all. Evgeni Malkin gave Pittsburgh a two goal lead with another streaking shot that left Miller high and dry.
The Penguins are 25-2-1 when leading after two periods and the Sabres are 2-26-4 when trailing after two heading into this game. That dichotomy rang true in the third period of this game as the a Penguins were able to hang back and just play sound hockey which the Sabres couldn't match. Brian Gibbons scored his fourth goal of the season and his second in as many games to give Pittsburgh a 4-1 lead. James Neal scored seven minutes later to make the score 5-1.
For the Sabres this season, these games have become more and more normal. Thankfully for Sabres fans, they get a respite from this for a few weeks after Thursday night's game against Ottawa. With this loss, according the Sports Club Stats, the Sabres have officially eliminated themselves from playoff contention. Like there was much of a doubt of that anyways.
Showcasing Miller To Start In Sochi
One of the major debates heading into the Olympics is who will start for Team USA, Ryan Miller or Jonathan Quick. While a performance in one game behind a defense as bad as the Sabres isn't going to change how coach Dan Bylsma is going to think about his starter, it may not leave a fantastic impression. Miller has played twice against the Penguins this season and both times came out of the losing end. His final stat line in front of Bylsma this season is stopping 60 of 67 shots he faced in 120 minutes.
Missing Third Jersey
While this isn't supposed to come off as a huge conspiracy theory or anything, it may be important to note. According to the schedule the Sabres released when they announced their third jerseys, this game was one of the ten on the schedule. Now, schedules can change and this doesn't mean anything in particular about the third jersey. The next game that it's supposed to come out is March 16th against the Montreal Canadiens. If the jersey doesn't show itself between now and then, it might be time to sound the alarms.