Buffalo played a solid game on Wednesday night, defeating the Canes 4-3. With a 2-1 series lead, the Sabres have tilted "home ice" in their favor. The Canes will need to win on Friday to slant it back to the Canes. A loss on Friday wouldn't be the end of the world, but it would sure make things tough.
I've been saying all along that this series would be organic, and would have lots of twists and turns, ebbs and flows. As you recall, I pointed out that the Sabres controlled the second period of game one, and for that matter the landscape of that game with their speed. Carolina was unable to match, but the Canes were able to reverse the momentum by controlling the second period of game two, which was the footprint of that whole game. The Canes did their domination with strength and size, simply out"man"-ing the Sabres.
Game three was again dictated by what happened in the second period. This time, it was discipline. I hinted at the fact that the Canes had to be better disciplined, and they, frankly put, were not. The Canes committed two penalties in the final minute of the first frame, and three in the first 16 minutes of the second. Five penalties in 17 minutes of game time. In the same time frame, the Sabres only committed one penalty. Buffalo converted two of those five chances, during that span. They mounted a 4-1 lead, which was just enough to hold off a late rally by the Canes.
While I was encouraged by their late-game tenacity, I was upset with their lack of discipline late in the first and during the second. I was also upset with their lack of focus. The Canes managed to draw the one penalty in the second, but they so poorly managed the puck in the ensuing power play that Buffalo had TWO excellent shorthanded scoring opportunities.
What follows is a bare bones post. After I re-view the game, I may or may not tidy/tighten it up.
Carolina scored first, which was only the third (thank you Evan) time the Sabres allowed their opponent to do so. However, it was the first of those three that Buffalo won the game.
At 14:07 of the first, Cory Stillman was credited with an unassisted goal. He took a shot on Miller from near the bottom of the left circle that hit Jay McKee's stick and slid in past Miller. On first glance, I thought Mike Commodore, who was parked on the doorstep, had a redirect, but it was McKee.
Late in the first with Rod Brind'Amour gone for tripping, Chris Drury picked up a power play goal. The goal, at 19:31, was a low slot re-direction of an Alex Kotalik shot. Derek Roy got the secondary assist.
Doug Weight was whistled for interference just as the first period expired, and the resultant power play bore fruit for the Crossed Swords. At 1:02, Daniel Briere tapped in a rebound of a Jochen Hecht point shot. JP Dumont got the other assist. Although there is no tertiary assist, I'm sure if there was such a thing, it would have gone to JPom, who really got the play started.
Danny boy got his second goal of the night at the 8:28 mark on a really pretty breakaway. Dumont and McKee with the helpers.
At 12:55, Ales Kotalik scored the final goal of the night for the Sabres, the game winner. The goal came on a long bomb shot through a pretty good screen. Max Afenogenov and Toni Lydman got the helpers. This play all got started down in the Buffalo end when a Sabres skater interfered with Mike Commodore, but was let go. Overall, I don't think it was a poorly officiated game, but I wrote that down in my notes and underlined it, so that particular call really stood out.
At this point, Peter Laviolette pulled Cam Ward to give some spark to the team. He might should have stopped the breakaway goal, but the others weren't entirely on him. The team was a little flat in the second, and they needed something to get them going.
Immediately, Gerber was tested as he was forced to make two brilliant stops on shorthanded breakaways. McKee was gone for roughing, and the Canes ran a horrible looking power play that was a perfect microcosm of the second period. The change in goal seemed to do some good, as the Canes started to re-form. However, on Wednesday night, it just wasn't meant to be the Canes' night.
Cory Stillman scored his second goal of the night and his sixth of the playoffs at 18:18. AWard and Viva got the helpers.
The third period was a really clean and relatively quiet period. Only one penalty was called : a high stick to Toni Lydman at 14:17. While he was gone, the Sabres lead was trimmed all the way down to 4-3. Eric Staal found the back of the net through heavy traffic out front. Dougie Weight and Frantisek Kaberle got assists. It was his sixth goal and his 18th point of the playoffs. It also marked the 13th game in a row in which he has earned at least one point.
This series will more than likely see another unique game on Friday. The Canes will snap back with another outstanding performance. I don't know what their tactic will be for that game four, but I'm sure there's a lot more of this series to come.
Friday's puck drop will again be at 7:30.
4 years ago