Henrik Tallinder struck first at the 2:56 mark with a rebound chance that beat Ward. The way BFLO blog tells it, it was a gorgeous tic-tac-toe play, but it wasn't quite like that. Jochen Hecht had a good chance on a semi-break, but his shot sailed wide. JPom had a nice wrap chance denied. Tallinder came in undetected and didn't miss. On the play, Aaron Ward had a perfect chance to take Tallinder out of the play, but peeled off, leaving left winger Ray Whitney as the only man between Tallinder and Cam Ward. Ward had just slid from right post to left in order to stop JPom's chance, and didn't really have much hope of stopping Tallinder. For the rest of the period, Carolina pretty much controlled the tempo and kept most of the action in Buffalo's zone. They also drew two penalties, but they weren't able to convert either one of them.
At 12:11 of the first, the Canes took advantage of a Buffalo neutral zone turnover and tied it at one. Cory Stillman picked off a Sabres pass and dished to a streaking Rod Brind'Amour on the left side. Brindy did a fantastic job of delaying his shot, which pulled Miller to the near post. Brindy snapped a well placed shot from a tight angle over Miller's left shoulder and into the top right corner of the net. Stillman got the lone assist, but he also got his clock cleaned as Rory Fitzpatrick met him with a thunderous hit at the blue line just as he made the pass. The teams went to their respective rooms all tied and 1:22 remaining in a Buffalo power play.
Daniel Briere put the Sabres up for good at 9:41 by scoring a beauty of a goal. After a series of breakaway and odd-man chances were denied at both ends, the Sabres finally had one that worked. It was the result of some really amazing passing by the Swords. It all started when Ryan Miller stopped a Canes chance and sent the puck off the glass near the penalty bench. Taylor Pyatt picked it up, sent a long diagonal pass to JPom on the right side. JPom made a mirror image long diagonal pass to Briere, who ended up using the backhand to score a goal that looked eerily like the Brindy goal. Like Miller had done, Ward overcommitted to the left side, and the puck was perfectly placed under the corner where the crossbar and right post meet. Initially, Derek Roy was given credit for the primary assist, but he wasn't even on the ice, and the correction was made.
Buffalo clearly made adjustments in the second period, and they kept most of the action in the south end of the arena, just like the Canes did in the first. They went to the second intermission up a goal, but down a defenseman. I don't know how or when, but Teppo Numminen apparently suffered a "lower body injury" and wasn't seen at all in the second or third.
With 13:40 gone in the third frame, Jay McKee gave the Sabres a two-goal cushion by scoring a dandy of a goal that proved to be the game-winner. He had been in the box feeling shame for a holding infraction at 11:32. He was released from the box just in time to take a pass from Hecht. He skated into the right circle, waited for the traffic situation to be just right, and rifled one past Ward. I don't think Wardo ever saw it.
At 15:50, AWard took a holding penalty, and the Sabres started to sniff a blowout. However, it didn't really work that way. Crowd favorite Mike Commodore netted a shorthanded goal at 17:07. During the same shorthanded sequence, Brindy had a quality chance, and this one, from the most unlikely of candidates was good. It started out with Commy down low instead of running point. He threw the puck at the net from below the right circle, and it caromed off the side wall, took a funny bounce to the stick of Bret Hedican, who fed Commy down in the low slot. Commy then fired a shot that glanced off Toni Lydman's stick and in. Originally, Heddy was given the only assist, but later on Eric Staal was given a secondary assist. I had to watch the replay six times to understand why, and I still think it's kind of questionable, but it helped him extend his scoring streak to 11 games. The playoff scoring streak matches that of Jaro Jagr 10 years ago. Carolina pulled Ward for an extra attacker and had several good chances to tie it in the final minute, but Ryan Miller answered the bell every time. He certainly deserved the first star.
Overall, this was a great game. Obviously, I don't like the outcome, but the game was great. It was fast-paced, had a few momentum shifts, featured good d, great goaltending, good crisp passes, and no garbage. I expect this to be a very fun series. If game one is an indicator, we're in for a thrill ride.
No garbage. I wish I could say the same for the RBC Center parking lot. I enjoyed the company of several Sabres fans who provided Bill, the other Dave, and myself with a slab of an absolutely enormous Dagwood sandwich. Turns out they are from Niagara Falls, NY, and I was able to relate to them because of a brilliant bakery I've been to up there. Once I brought that up, it's like we had been friends forever. Over at the other blog, which I've cast aside like a "Canadian Ballet" dancer, I wrote about that bakery almost a year ago to the date. You can read that post by clicking here.
Anyway, I liked those dudes, and I met some other folks that seemed like nice people. It's also a well known fact that my best friend is a Sabres fan. I'm not a Sabre-hater, but there was a cluster of about 10 or 15 Buffalo cars who crashed our massive tailgate party and left a ridiculous mess in their wake. Cans, bottles, miscellaneous garbage. Amateurs. Amateurs. A veteran tailgater knows that you haul your own trash away ESPECIALLY when you are a visitor. I wasn't happy about that.
B-LIST CELEBRITY SIGHTINGS: 1. Kid Rock was sitting in one of the club level boxes. Late in the game, Erik Cole was seen in the same box. Hmmmm.