Panthers Sabres HockeyBoth the Buffalo Sabres and the Florida Panthers entered the HSBC Arena last night ice cold and desperately in need of two points to stay in the tightly contested Eastern Conference playoff race. To start the third period, the Sabres found themselves down 3-1, but managed 3 goals in a 2:07 span, rallying to defeat Florida by a final score of 5-3. “We had to be desperate. This is that time of year,” said Buffalo Sabre, Jason Pominville. 

After being booed by their fans throughout the first two periods, the Sabres desperate play was eerily reminiscent to the comeback Buffalo made against the Tampa Bay Lightning just over a year ago. Check out these freaky comparisons:

  • On March 19, 2008 at the HSBC Arena, the Sabres were down 4-1 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. With 15 minutes to play in the third period, Buffalo rallied to defeat Tampa 7-4. On March 25, 2009 at the HSBC Arena, the Sabres were down 3-1 against the Florida Panthers. With just under 14 minutes to play in the third period, Buffalo rallied to defeat Florida 5-3.
  • These victories are just over 1 year apart. 
  • Both rallies came within 1 minute of each other in game time.
  • In both games, the Sabres needed a win to keep their playoff hopes alive.
  • Jason Pominville set up both comebacks, scoring twice in the Tampa game, and once with two assists in the Florida game.
  • Both contests were at the HSBC Arena and against teams from the state of Florida.
  • In both games the fans booed the Sabres off the ice.
  • In the third period Buffalo out shot Tampa 16-4, and Florida 21-9.
  • The win against Tampa put Buffalo in 9th place with 81 points. With the win against Florida, Buffalo remains in 10th place with 78 points.
  • At the time in 2008, the Toronto Maple Loafs were 5 points behind the Sabres. Currently, the Loafs are only 3 points behind Buffalo.

Weird, eh?

Game Summary

Before the game, Panthers right winger, Radek Dvorak was quoted as saying, “I have a good feeling that good things are going to happen.”

Oops.

Trade deadline acquisition, goalie Mikael Tellqvist, made his first home start for the Sabres stopping 30 shots in the win. Opposing goaltender, Tomas Vokoun made 40 saves for the Panthers. On only their third shot of the game, Florida went up 1-0 by an ugly goal from Brett McLean. In his 799th career game, Sabres Captain, Craig Rivet scored on the power play Panthers Sabres Hockeywith 15 seconds remaining in the opening frame for his 2nd of the season. Richard Zednik (the guy who had his throat slit open at HSBC Arena a little over a year ago) scored the go ahead goal for Florida with just over five minutes to play in the second. Michael Frolik scored on a trickling puck to put the Panthers up 3-1 early in the third period. Then came the 2 minute onslaught by the Sabres. The comeback began as Jason Pominville responded to Frolik’s goal, scoring his 16th of the year and putting Buffalo within one. Clarke MacArthur tied it up on a slap shot and then Tim Connolly scored the game winner on the power play, making the score 4-3. The goals were MacArthur’s and Connolly’s 14th of the season. Maxim Afinogenov scored the empty netter (his 5th), making the final 5-3 Buffalo. Max’s goal triggered a bum rush from Nathan Horton and company, going after Max in a childish fit of frustration.

Fast Facts

-The Sabres had only 1 power play goal in their previous 6 games, going 1 for 26. Last night they were 2 for 5. The Panthers were 0 for 2.

-Florida didn’t get their first shot on goal until 7 minutes into the game. The Sabres had already tallied 4. 

-Before last night, the Panthers were 21-9-4 when they scored first. The Sabres have won 3 straight and 5 of the last 6 against them.

-History dictates that the City of Buffalo hasn’t been kind to the Panthers or Richard Zednik. Florida is 7-19-2 with 3 ties at HSBC all time (including this game). Despite scoring a goal, Zednik shed blood onto Buffalo’s home ice for the second year in a row (both times from friendly fire). In this instance, however, the injury was far less severe, as teammate Cory Stillman’s shot struck Zednik in the right side of his face shield. He was cut across the nose and quickly made his way to the locker room. Zednik returned to the bench a few minutes later though, 84-sabres_game_sports_panthers_at_sabres_004standaloneprod_affiliate501seemingly in good health. The injury creepily took place right near the spot where his throat was cut open just over a year ago.

 

-Drew Stafford is in the midst of a really bad slump, scoring only 2 goals and 2 assists in his last 14 games.

-Although Afinogenov scored the empty netter and put out some tough shifts alongside Danielle Paille and Dominic Moore, the forward seemed to revert to his old ways (of turning the puck over) a handful of times last night. At one point, Max was out for a lengthy 2:04 shift. Upon returning to the bench, head coach Lindy Ruff chewed him out for the move.

-Buffalo color guy, Harry Neale had the quote of the season when he said that Buffalo was trapped in their own end “like pregnant foxes in a forest fire.” I’m not sure if that’s hilarious, ridiculous, or terrible… probably all of the above.

The Final Word

With the win, the Sabres improve to 35-30-8 on the year, but continue to be locked in 10th place. Here is how the Eastern Conference is looking:

  1. Boston Bruins (102 points/73 games played/clinched the NE Division)
  2. New Jersey Devils (97/73/clinched playoff birth)
  3. Washington Capitals (97/75/clinched playoff birth)
  4. Philadelphia Flyers (90/72)
  5. Carolina Panthers (89/76)
  6. Pittsburgh Penguins (88/75)
  7. New York Rangers (86/74)
  8. Montreal Canadiens (83/73)
  • In the Hunt: Florida Panthers (81/74), Buffalo Sabres (78/73), Toronto Maple Loafs (75/74), Ottawa Senators (74/73)

Panthers Sabres HockeyIt’s easy to see that the final five spots are still up for grabs. Any team can begin to slump while another goes on a playoff propelling win streak. Hopefully, the latter is the route the Sabres can take as they are expecting starting goaltender Ryan Miller to return for Friday’s match-up against the Maple Loafs at home. Miller has stated that his ankle is, “as good as it’s going to get.” Buffalo has gone 4-7-2 without him between the pipes, and with only 9 games remaining in the season, they can’t afford another losing streak. After Toronto, Buffalo takes on the Montreal Canadiens and the Atlanta Thrashers on the road.

One year ago, the Sabres mounted an electrifying comeback against the Tampa Bay Lightning to keep their playoff hopes alive. After that victory, however, the Sabres dropped 2 straight, and went 4-3-1 to close out the season. They missed the playoffs by 4 points, finishing in 10th place.

Hopefully, history won’t be repeating itself.



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