The Sabres tied it up at 19:13. Alex Kotalik had a hard shot that just glanced off Tomas Vanek's skate and in the goal. Initially, the scorers ruled that Derek Roy had batted it in just as it was about to cross the line anyway. Review showed that Roy never touched it, and that Vanek's skate knocked it in. They never announced the score change, but according to the official scoresheet, that's how it went down. Rory Fitzpatrick got the other assist.
The second period was one of complete mastery by the Canes. Or complete disaster for the Sabres. Take your pick. While the Canes limited the Sabres to just four shots in the second frame, they scored two goals of their own to put the game just barely out of reach.
Ray Whitney, who I called out for being lackadaisical in game one, scored both second period markers. The first came at 6:15 on a power play goal with Jochen Hecht off for tripping. Eric Staal unleashed a wrist shot from the high slot that Whitney perfectly redirected past Miller for his fifth goal of the playoffs.
The second Whitters goal came at 12:58 during a four-on-four sequence resulting from a questionable coincidental roughing penalties to Marc Recchi and Paul Gaustad. Frankly, I didn't see why either player should have been gone, but it was a wash with both gone. The Canes were controlling puck posession, and during the four-on-four, Matt Cullen found Whitters all alone in the high slot. He one-timed it in for his sixth tally. Glen Wesley got the secondary assist.
At 6:58 of the third, Justin "Viva" Williams scored what turned out to be the game winner. It was on a breakaway chance following a neutral zone turnover. He came in down the left side and fired a straight shot from near the top of the left circle right at Miller. There wasn't any traffic to speak of, and Miller stops this puck cleanly 99,999 times out of 100,000. However, this one hit his glove and somehow squeaked through. The unassisted goal was Viva's third tally of the post-season.
Late in the third, Carolina started to have discipline issues, and it almost caught up with them.
Chris Drury scored during a 5-on-3 sequence at 11:32. Daniel Briere and JP Dumont had the helpers. Kaberle and Hedican took back-to-back hooking penalties near the 10:30 mark, leaving the Canes with little defensive help. Any time you've got two defensemen in the box, you're in trouble. Especially if the 5-on-3 is for 1:45.
With Miller pulled and Chad LaRose gone for holding, the Sabres had a 6-on-4 for the final 1:30 or so, and they managed to cash in with just under three seconds remaining in the game. Derek Roy got the goal, and the assists were from Chris Drury and Maxim Afenogenov. . Quite honestly, there was so much traffic out front, I didn't even see the goal, despite the fact that it was a mere 25 feet in front of my face.
I need to mention that Glen Wesley made a stunning defensive play early in the third that ended up being crucial to the outcome of the game. A Jay McKee left point shot glanced off Cam Ward and behind him. There was a mess of people out front, and Cam didn't know where the puck was, and wouldn't have been able to get to it anyway. It was slowly inching towards the goal line, and at the last nanosecond, Wesley swooped in, got the blade of his stick on the goal line, and kept the puck out. For this, and for some all-round great defensive play, Wesley was given the game's second star.
Despite the third period disipline issues, resulting in four minor penalties, the Canes played a very solid and well balanced game. Defensemen were joining the scoring chances. Forwards were blocking shots. Everyone was much more solid (read: aggressive) on the forecheck.
On both sides, there were some really hard hits. I didn't think it would, but this series certainly is developing the markings of a grudge match. There's still a long way to go in this series, and I doubt very much that game three will be a "tone setter". Instead, I expect this series to have a lot of character, and a number different and changing characteristics. It should be a complete blast. It already has been.
Games three and four will be at the HSBC Arena on Wednesday and Friday nights, respectively. Puck drop for both games will be 7:30 eastern.