Sabres forward Steve Ott did score the game deciding goal, but he did a better job summing up the night in the locker room after the game.
“That’s fun,” said Ott.
Buffalo came back from an early 2-0 deficit to tie the game at three before the end of the second and held on in the third to get the game to overtime before they eventually downed the Toronto Maple Leafs with a 5-4 shootout win in front of 19,070 raucous fans, in both teams’ colors, at First Niagara Center.
“Honestly that’s easy energy you can take from the crowd,” added Ott.
The game got off to a wild start as Buffalo John Scott dropped the gloves with Toronto’s Fraser McLaren as Leafs tough guy Colton Orr tried picking a fight with Sabres pest Patrick Kaleta. Orr was booted from the game and Buffalo started off with a four minute powerplay which they failed to capitalize on.
Toronto would open up the scoring with two goals 1:16 apart just minutes later, beating Ryan Miller twice on five shots in the opening period. Tyler Ennis scored late in the period to cut the deficit to one.
The physical play continued to escalate throughout the game, and Toronto regained their two-goal lead on Mikhail Grabovski goal about nine minutes in. Buffalo would storm back on goals 0:45 apart by Marcus Foligno and Jason Pominville to tie the game, and then take the lead early in the third on a Christian Ehrhoff powerplay goal.
Leafs leading scorer Nazem Kadri would tie the game six minutes later, and except for a lot of hitting, the game was unresolved through 65 minutes of play.
“It was nasty and chippy and that’s the way it should be,” said Foligno.
Drew Stafford tallied in round 2 of the skills competition and Ott would score the shootout winner as Miller stopped 5 of 6 Leafs shooters, complementing his 30 saves through regulation and overtime.
Buffalo, with the win, sits just four points out of 8th place with 17 games remaining. Just when you thought they were out, they suck you right back in.
- John Scott, as much as he gets bashed, may have had his most effective game as a Sabre in 3:02 of ice time. He was able to bait Leafs forward Phil Kessel into a coincidental minor, which is a trade you take any day. And he had some fun after the game.
- Marcus Foligno always seems to step his game up when they play Toronto. Not just on the scoresheet (has six points in six career games) but as a physical presence. Makes you wish they played the Leafs more often.
- The drumline in the arena looks dumber and dumber each game. Yes, having someone lead chants is great until they stop, and then everyone else does. You’re creating sheep instead of putting the onus on the fans to make their own noise. Band-aid over a bullet wound. Read the rest of this entry
Luckily, we’ve had enough of that shit.
In the first of two meetings in the center of the hockey universe, Buffalo, fresh off a season-opening win over the Flyers, headed up the Queen Elizabeth Way and defeated the Leafs by a score of 2-1 in Toronto’s home opener.
Buffalo jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Cody Hodgson and American hero Jason Pominville. A late powerplay goal by Toronto’s Nazem Kadri, with the teams skating 6-on-4 made it close, but the Sabres held on.
Ryan Miller was strong in net for Buffalo, stopping 34 of 35 shots. For the second game in a row, he was also the beneficiary of not one but two disallowed goals. In 42 career games against Toronto, Miller now has a record of 28-14.
Thomas Vanek also registered an assist on Pominville’s game winner to retain the NHL scoring lead with six points.
Buffalo sits at 2-0-0 on the season, and next heads to Carolina for the first game of a home-and-home Thursday in Raleigh. Toronto, well, they’re still struggling with that expansion to a 12-team league.
- At some point, someone other than Vanek, Pominville or Hodgson is going to have to create a goal. They’ve been in on everything so far, and it’s not a concern yet, but it will be soon.
- Ryan Miller looked locked in most of the night, and made some very good saves. Overall, he seemed completely in control.
- John Scott with 1:58 of ice time and a fight, which, was alright I guess. After two games, he’s spent 4:08 on the ice and 5:00 in the box. Again, this can’t last. Read the rest of this entry
Backs against the wall, playoff hopes on the line, hated rival in town, coming off a tough loss with chances to stay in the playoff picture fading faster than a Luke Schenn tee-shot, the Sabres were guaranteed to come out strong and make a statement.
There’s no guarantees, apparently. But who gives a shit if they come through at the end, right?
Spotting the clubhouse-bound Maple Leafs a 3-0 lead, the Buffalo Sabres made the most rousing of rousing comebacks, fighting back for a 6-5 overtime win. Derek Roy scored the game winner on a powerplay at 3:29 of overtime to tie Buffalo with Washington at 88 points for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
An epic goal by Jordan Leopold with 1:53 remaining in regulation tied the game at five, erasing a two goal deficit in the final ten minutes.
“Today was one of those days where we could’ve found ourselves losing that game 5-0,” Leopold said. “It didn’t work out that way, because we decided to dig in and push it all the way.”
Alexander Sulzer scored twice, Roy added another and Tyler Ennis also scored for Buffalo, who at one point or another, trailed 3-0, 4-2 and 5-3 before sending it to overtime.
Ryan Miller, despite the five goals allowed on the statline, made several phenomenal saves in stopping 20 of 25 shots he faced to get the win.
Buffalo’s scant playoff prospects remain alive until Thursday, when a matchup with the Flyers in Philadelphia and a Florida/Washington battle await. Until then…
- In the final 43:29 of the game (second, third, and overtime periods) Buffalo outshot Toronto 36-12. It shouldn’t have been as close as it was.
- Marcus Foligno, the well deserved first star of the night, was an absolute force. Throwing huge hits, dropping the gloves, picking up assists and overall being a pain-in-the-ass for the Leafs. And remember, there was a debate over whether the team made a mistake giving up on Zack Kassian.
- Alexander Sulzer came to the Sabres with the following career totals: 74 games played. One goal. Seven assists. In 15 games with Buffalo, three goals, five assists and a good chance to get a nice contract this offseason. Read the rest of this entry
(In place of a traditional “Overreactions” post, which would be extremely tardy, this is 3MI Roadtrip Recap. A mix of what the postgame blogs usually look like and a look into the trip. Hope you like it. If you don’t, well, go lay down on train tracks.)
It’s about as close to being at the center of the hockey universe as you can get. Saturday night in Toronto. Hockey Night in Canada. Nationwide up north and on NHL Network in the United States.
The aura of the Air Canada Centre is something that has to be experienced. And it’s something that I’ve been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to experience. Multiple times. Many, many times.
So when you look at the calendar and see Sabres at Leafs on a Saturday night at the end of March, two thoughts come to mind:
- Going to games in Toronto is awesome.
- The Leafs will be eliminated from playoff contention by then.
Which brought us to Saturday, which was as big as big games could get after losing Friday night to Pittsburgh.
So me and my buddy headed up north for the day. A nice afternoon of watching hockey at Real Sports Bar & Grill across the street from the ACC and some Saturday night hockey. Got standing room only tickets off StubHub at box office price. Can’t beat it.
Sabres @ Maple Leafs
Viewed at: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
If you want to write the book called “How to fuck up your playoff chances in a game you should win,” I’ve got a suggestion for what you can include.
Making the short trip north for a showdown with a free-falling Toronto Maple Leafs, who came into Saturday riding an 11-game winless streak at home, who happened to be starting their fourth-string goalie because their third-string goalie got shelled the game before, Buffalo proceeded to back away from any decent shot at a playoff spot.
Unable to beat Ben Scrivens or shut down a struggling offense, the Buffalo Sabres dropped a 4-3 defeat at the hands of the golf-course-bound Leafs in Toronto.
Ryan Miller was unable to rebound from a rough outing the night before, giving up four goals for the second straight night. He made 25 saves in the loss.
“We scored some goals tonight, so I didn’t need to be perfect,” Miller said. “But I needed to make another save or two.”
Tyler Ennis, Ville Leino, and Drew Stafford scored for Buffalo, who never led at any point. Read the rest of this entry
It wasn’t very high, but high enough.
Thanks to two first period goals from the team’s fourth line, solid goaltending, and the team’s leading scorer coming through as usual, Buffalo was able to secure a split to the home-and-home with Toronto, as they pulled out a 3-2 win at First Niagara Center.
Matt Ellis opened the scoring at 1:05, banking in a shot from behind the goal line. The rare fortunate bounce was followed up by Gaustad ripping a wrister past Jonas Gustavsson less than three minutes later.
“We haven’t got many of those,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff admitted in his press conference, referring to the team’s bad luck of late.
Buffalo’s two early goals were answered by the Maple Leafs before the end of the first, as they scored two goals in just 2:46 to even the score.
The tie was broken with just over five minutes remaining in the second, as Thomas Vanek threaded a beautiful pass to Jason Pominville at the back door for the All-Star’s 15th of the season. The Leafs defense failed to notice the captain sneak around the goal to the backside of the crease.
“We should’ve had the coverage in front of the net,” Leafs coach Ron Wilson said after the game.
Ryan Miller made 24 saves for the win, and allowed two goals or less in consecutive games for the first time since October. Jonas Gustavsson allowed three goals on 25 shots to a team he shutout a few days before.
The game wasn’t without the reemergence of the story of the season, as Brayden McNabb left the game with what could be a concussion. Ruff reported that he did in fact visit the “quiet room” and is out for tomorrow’s game on Long Island.
- Getting goals from guys like Paul Gaustad and Matt Ellis is the difference between this being a competitive team and an average team. That depth in offense is crucial. The second and third lines didn’t contribute any themselves. Thanks to Gaustad, Ellis and Patrick Kaleta (two assists) chipping in, they got two points.
- I’ll say there were probably a solid 9-10,000 Leafs fans in the building.
- Derek Roy came out extremely strong and overall had a pretty solid game. He was doing good things with the puck down low, created a couple chances too. Read the rest of this entry
(In place of a traditional “Overreactions” post, which would be extremely tardy, this is 3MI Roadtrip Recap. A mix of what the postgame blogs usually look like and a look into the trip. Hope you like it. If you don’t, well, go find a bridge.)
It really is the center of the hockey universe. Whether we like it or not.
Living in Buffalo, you get used to Toronto being “right there.” Honestly, it’s a nice perk. I hate Canada in general with a passion, but, to be truthful, I love going to Toronto. It’s beautiful.
I’ve made a habit of heading north to catch Sabres games since the lockout. Thanks to the Sabres’ ownership of the Leafs on the scoreboard since then, it’s been a habitually great trip. Heading into Tuesday, I had attended 15 Sabres/Leafs games at Air Canada Centre, with Buffalo winning 13 of them. Really. When you can leave an opposing arena on a winning note, it makes the trip much more enjoyable.
A couple weeks ago, I found a few standing room only tickets on StubHub for a reasonable $49.99 each. You read that right. Those damn fees turned into $60 each, but I’m a huge fan of the SRO areas at the ACC. You basically stand right at the top of the 300 level, with a birds-eye view of the ice and some space to breathe. Some would look at a $60 ticket that doesn’t include a seat and question it, but I don’t. It’s Toronto. It’s a different world.
So I headed north with some friends eager to see another win. Um, well…
Sabres @ Maple Leafs
Viewed at: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
You can’t win if you don’t score.
Thanks to an impotent offense and 60 minutes without a single powerplay, the Sabres had no chance to win in a 2-0 loss to the Maple Leafs.
First period goals by Nikolai Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski were plenty of cushion as Jonas Gustavsson got the shutout for Toronto. Ryan Miller made 26 saves in the loss.
Buffalo was in rough shape early, as Thomas Vanek played just four minutes due to illness and left the game during the first period. Without their leading scorer, the Sabres struggled.
“We need to get one and it will make the boys in here feel good and hopefully we can string them on from there,” Sabres forward Drew Stafford said. “We’ve got a great opportunity in the rematch in a couple days.”
Opportunities are only useful if they’re converted.
- The officiating was horrendous both ways. The only penalties called, save for the Patrick Kaleta charging penalty, all required tangible evidence to prompt a call. Stafford put the puck in the crowd. Then Stafford pushed a guy into the net and knocked it off. Then Mike Weber put the puck over the glass. That’s weak.
- Love the atmosphere at Air Canada Centre, but honestly, that was the weakest vibe I’ve experienced there. Crowd was absolutely dead. If I ranked all the games I’ve gone to there in order of quality of atmosphere, that one was 16 out of 16. Shitty intro video doesn’t help get the crowd going either. Read the rest of this entry
Ryan Miller was fairly solid, making 28 saves in the loss. He was spectacular in the first period and seemed to get hung out to dry on a couple occasions.
Jason Pominville and Derek Roy scored for Buffalo, who have just one win in their last six.
The Sabres took a second period lead as Pominville opened the scoring, but the Leafs answered with two quick goals. Roy tied it early in the third period, but a goal by Nazem Kadri was enough to give Toronto the win.
Buffalo is now 1-4-1 in their last six games.
- Seriously, if Thomas Vanek misses any time, or this is a nagging injury, this team is screwed.
- Brayden McNabb had a really good game. Created a lot offensively, played solid defensively and made an impact physically. If he can string a few of these games together, he should be able to stay in the lineup even after Tyler Myers returns. Being the only defenseman who’s waiver-exempt, he’s going to have to play his way in every night.
- After a strong debut, Derek Whitmore wasn’t as effective tonight. He didn’t seem to be on the same page as linemates Paul Szczechura and Drew Stafford. The team’s lack of centers renders any discussion about whether Whitmore or Szczechura is next to head down the 90 moot. Read the rest of this entry
The Buffalo Sabres have struggled mightily to win games at First Niagara Center all season. Friday night was the first visit of the reenergized Toronto Maple Leafs this season. With them, came their legion of rowdy fans. For once, there was electricity in the air at First Niagara Center.
The Sabres responded.
On the strength of a four-point night from Thomas Vanek and three powerplay goals from the extra-man unit, Buffalo erased two second period deficits on their way to a 5-4 victory over their cross-border rivals.
Vanek scored twice for the Sabres, who also got goals from Drew Stafford, Tyler Ennis and Andrej Sekera during a four-goal second period. Three of the four came on the powerplay, as Toronto took 23 minutes in penalties during the second.
“We need to get our swagger back, especially when we have the lead,” said Vanek, who leads the Sabres with 16 goals. “Sometimes that’s all it takes. There’s no miracle to it. Everyone here is a good player, so when we get the lead we have to go for the next one and bury a team. We didn’t quite do that, but I think it was a step in the right direction.”
Ryan Miller got the win, making 29 saves.
- Former Sabre Tim Connolly’s return was the big story coming in, but at the end of the night, he didn’t spoil the party. Connolly was -1 and was 13-of-23 on faceoffs in 16:33 of ice time.
- Mike Weber’s return has really helped transform the Sabres defense into something a bit more effective physically. With Buffalo sporting Weber, Robyn Regehr and Brayden McNabb on the blueline Friday, they packed a good amount of punch. That physical edge was lacking without Weber in the lineup.
- Big ups to Toronto’s penalty kill for the confidence boost to the Sabres’ powerplay. Read the rest of this entry
3MI GUEST POST
With today being the Maple Leafs’ first regular season drive of the year down Queen Elizabeth Way, an airing of grievances is in store at the First Niagara Center.
Tonight, Sabres fans are prepared to let Tim Connolly understand just how thankful they were for his time in Buffalo. Perhaps “understand” and “thankful” are the wrong words.
Why do Sabres fans hate Connolly so much? His injuries? His favorable contract? The inability to live up to his long-discussed hype?
The truth is, Buffalonians never truly took a liking to him at any point. His follies were trounced upon by fans who could not wait to deem him a failure. His successes were met with apathy; each dangle, each creative pass merely fulfilling expectations. Simply put, Connolly’s style and persona put him on a tight leash from day one in Buffalo. His unemotional mannerisms and favorable final contract made for an uphill climb to a Western New Yorker’s heart.
Connolly has, when healthy, performed admirably so far in Toronto. On pace for 58 points in 70 games and coming off a two-goal performance (including an overtime winner), the narrative is built for a dramatic return to Buffalo. He’s no less creative in the offensive zone than before and still takes pride in playing a strong defensive game. Leafs fans have been pleased, seeing Connolly as a logical acquisition to a team that needed a playmaking center.
With his name serving as a punchline in Buffalo for much of his time there, a look at his numbers fail to explain the poor treatment he received.
In 464 games with the Sabres he accumulated 320 points. Subtract his ‘02-’03 season (a year very few Sabres performed well), and Connolly racked up at least half a point a game. At his best, he was over a half-point-a-game player, statistically peaking between the ‘05-’06 and ‘09-’10 campaigns. Fans took his physical ailments as a reason to contest his value to the team instead of eagerly awaiting his return, a treatment few oft-injured Sabres ever faced.
The breaking point with the fans seemed to be the front office renewing his contract at $4.5 million a year at the 2009 trade deadline instead of dealing him for prospects and/or picks.
A blue-collar fan base, unsympathetic towards Connolly’s inability to physically perform for work became outraged at the sight of him receiving a sizable raise. His new salary was market rate for a player of his caliber; but a blue collar market couldn’t get comfortable with a fragile, crafty centerman receiving more money when he wasn’t anchoring the team (a la Briere or Drury).
And so the bitterness continued to build. Read the rest of this entry
Like the way the sun comes up every morning. And how the Sabres always seem to beat the Leafs, even in meaningless exhibition games.
Same old story on Saturday night in Buffalo, as the Sabres defeated the Leafs for the second time in as many nights, this time by a score of 3-2.
Buffalo got powerplay goals from Drew Stafford, Christian Ehrhoff and Luke Adam, converting three of four man-advantage opportunities.
Jhonas Enroth got the win, making 19 saves for his third win of the preseason. He was beaten twice by Leafs forward Mikhail Grabovski, with the first of the two a possible kick that stood as a good goal.
- First point I need to make is that the Sabres did a good job stepping up and fixing a lot (not all, but most) of the problems in game presentation. There was game notes (key addition) and they did a full pregame introduction. Kudos to the organization for fixing mistakes. It’s encouraging.
- All three of the Sabres goals were beautiful powerplay goals. Good puck movement, good positioning, just overall nice plays. The Luke Adam goal was the fruit of a great passing play by Thomas Vanek and Brad Boyes. Boyes finding Adam was the product of patience, instead of Boyes just rushing the shot, he was able to thread a pass to a wide open Adam for the goal.
- Jhonas Enroth, dating back to the start of last preseason, is 13-3-2 in his last 18 decisions.
- The game was extremely chippy early, a carryover from the end of the game the night before. It settled down after the first period, but that first was very entertaining.
- I really liked Brad Boyes. He had the assist, but overall it was a very good showing. Was very engaged physically, and created a lot of scoring chances.
- The most encouraging thing I’ve gathered from the preseason is how well the key lines have looked. Gerbe-Gaustad-Kaleta and Ennis-Leino-Stafford were good again Saturday night. The Vanek-Roy-Pominville line has looked good in past games. The lineup seems pretty set.
- I don’t think there’s any chance Zack Kassian is going to get NHL time anytime soon. He needs some work and has not looked good at all. He was -1 in 9:21 of ice time against the Leafs.
Buffalo continues the preseason itinerary continues Sunday night as the Sabres take on the Blue Jackets in Columbus at 5:00pm ET. The game will not be televised.