This week, a Coworker who is a casual fan, said to me, "I usually wait until the playoffs to start paying attention to Hockey". This game is why.
Miroslav Satan scored the game winner 7:41 into Double-OT, to give Boston the 3-2 victory. The Power-Play came on a call for too many men on the ice. Drew Stafford was initially blamed, although i'm not sure who's fault it was. Either way, the man-advantage allowed Boston to work the puck around and eventually found Miro Satan walking into the slot, making a quick deke and sliding the puck through the legs of Big Tyler Myers and into the open net.
Thomas Vanek was not in the lineup tonight, but it took the remaining 18 players about two minutes to make Sabres fans forget about The Austrian. The Sabres started off the scoring early, Tim Kennedy getting his first career playoff tally. Tyler Ennis had the assist, passing the puck to Kennedy from behind the net.
Cody McCormick made his presence felt immediately. McCormick was in Johnny Boychuk and Zdeno Chara's face during and after the whistle. He also was incognito as far as mistakes until he got called for goaltender interference in the 3rd period, a penalty that led to Boston's first goal.
The period of Death (2nd period) was just the opposite for Buffalo. The Sabres killed off 2 Bruin power plays and continued the physical play. Craig Rivet accepted a challenge from Boston tough man, Milan Lucic. The fight was uneventful, but it got Lucic off the ice for 5 minutes and gave the Sabres a little more room to work offensively.
They often talk about goalies 'stealing games'. Ryan Miller absolutely stole the second period. Save after save, kept the Sabres ahead and allowed them to build their lead.
The Sabres scored their 2nd goal with Lucic in the box. Steve Montador let loose a blast with Paul Gaustad parked in front of Tuukka Rask. The puck snuck in the short side, giving Buffalo a 2-0 lead. Assist to Tim Connolly. The announcers really wanted to give the goal to Gaustad since Versus had just finished with the Goose charity spot during commercial. Sorry Versus, things don't always work out the way you want.
And sorry to the Sabres, who blew a 2-0 3rd period lead. With Cody McCormick in the box, David Krejci picked up a rebound and slid it past Miller to cut the Sabres lead in half 2:07 into the 3rd period. Buffalo immediately took another penalty, a Patrick Kaleta, boarding call, which by all accounts was a weak call. But you can't argue with the judge.
Boston made it 2-2 when Patrice Bergeron 'looked off' Miller while walking out from behind the net and quickly threw the puck low & under Miller's pad. The goal came 6:40 into the 3rd, shortly after the power-play had expired. With 10 minutes left in the 3rd, the Sabres were back to 'playing like they wanted it'. Tim Kennedy and Raffi Torres had nice energetic shifts. Raffi Torres continues to improve, athough i'm still baffled that he scored 19 goals this season.
In between the 3rd & 1st OT periods, Paul Hamilton had a good quote" 'I didn't think the game was won, I didn't think it was lost, I just knew it wasn't over.' That's easy to say after the fact, but I had the same feeling. I knew 2 goals wasn't too much to overcome and hoped the Sabres would put in a 3rd period goal to make the mountain insurmountable.
The Sabres got the first PP opportunity in the first Overtime. Tim Connolly rang post on a mid-range shot. Ahhh, the post, a ringing reminder of how close you were.
Miller made an astounding save on Miro Satan in OT, diving across the net to block a sure goal with his glove. Tuukka rask matched Miller, making a diving shortstop save on 'Beast-Mode' Mike Grier, who received a pass across the slot from Connolly.
...And then we lost (See Opening paragraph)
Player Notes: Mike Grier continued his physical dominance. Grier is annhilating people out there. He's also playing a whopper of a PK and good offensive zone play on the 3rd line. Kudos to Grier.
Tyler Ennis became a man tonight. Well, he at least became a respected NHL player. His hustle led to a key power-play in Overtime. He also had several cuts to the net for scoring chances. Through 3 games he had stayed to the outside, and although quick, had done no damage. Tonight he brought the game to Boston. Can't wait to see him up for a full season next year.
Cody McCormick was one Goaltender Interference penalty away from playing a perfect role. He was brought up to provide toughness. He did just that, agitating at every chance. Although questionable, the penalty was called, and wiped out all the good he had done up until that point. Great effort by Cody McCormick.
Dear Tim Connolly, We miss you. Thank you for showing up in the offensive zone. Please feel free to participate in the other 90% of game play.
Zdeno Chara - This guy is a Myth on the ice. It's like he's a Mortal Kombat character that will kill you if you get too close. Players won't even go near him. His well deserved reputation allows him to cover vast territory without having to deliver many of his trademark devastating hits.
Milan Lucic seems to be the only Boston player who intimidates the Sabres. He looks to have free reign in the Offensive zone. Maybe he's too fast? My guess is that Lucic is in the head of some of the Sabres D and they shy away when they see him coming. Lucic had a slapper that hurt Miller late in the 3rd period. Miller shook it off and continued.
This was an epic game with a huge prize on the line. The game was an absolute pleasure to watch in comparison to some of the snoozers you see during the regular season. Buffalo gave it all they had. I am proud of their effort, even though it ended in defeat. The Sabres had the skill on the ice to win this game. They adapted nicely to the absence of Thomas Vanek. That being said, it will be nice to have Vanek back in Game 5 if the ankle is strong enough to skate for the Blue & Gold.
I'm going to add the Rivet-Lucic Fight as the video for this article. If you want to see the Satan goal, here's a link. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BC_JTU4yotw
See everyone Friday. Hopefully not for the last time until October.
Game Time 7pm ET, HSBC Arena, Buffalo, NY