"When you win the Cup, you can take as much time as you want," Miller said. "We were fine with it. ... We just sat around in the locker room, stretching and trying to get ready. We tried to stay focused. We could tell it was loud."
The game that followed was a good game with ebbs and flows, each team dominating the game at one time or another. Carolina came out strong, and kept all of the action in the Buffalo end for the first 10 minutes of the first period. After eight minutes, the shot count was 11-1 in favor of the Canes.
At the 9:09 mark , the Sabres got on the board with just their second shot of the game. It was sort of a pinball shot, that took a crazy bounce or two on the way in. Jason Pominville was credited with the goal, tipping it in from the left circle. Dmitri Kalinin and Teppo Numminen got the helpers. Kalinin with a wrist shot from the point set the goal in motion. I couldn't tell live, but TV replays showed that the last deflection was off Canes defenseman Glen Wesley's skate. Cam Ward didn't have a chance on it as it beat him glove side high.
At 14:42, Eric Staal knotted the game at one. He came in on a two-on-two rush and fired a shot through the Sabres defenseman and just under the crossbar. Miller didn't even see it. Ray Whitney and Cam Ward got the assists.
During a three minute Sabres penalty parade in the second period, the Canes took a 2-1 lead. Carolina was enjoying the back end of two 5-on-3 segments when Erik Cole tipped one in on the doorstep. Ray Whitney and Justin Williams got the helpers. Whitney faked a shot from the high slot and made a gorgeous diagonal pass to Colsey, who was camped out on the right side of Miller's net. Cole didn't have to do a thing, as Miller couldn't slide over in time.
The lead didn't stand very long, though. Chris Drury made it 2-2 at the 15:32 mark. Tallinder fired a long bomb from the right point, which Drury tapped in from the right side of the net. Cam Ward was moving towards the right post, and Drury snuck it in the long side, beating Ward badly. Evidently, Tallinder's shot was first deflected off Derek Roy, then Drury's pants. At any rate, it beat Ward. Roy with the first assist, Tallinder with the second.
No goals in the third period, nor in the overtime.
Just as Carolina had controlled play in the first eight minutes of the game, Buffalo controlled the flow in the closing minutes of regulation and the entire overtime. Carolina did well to make it to the shootout.
Carolina opted to shoot first, and named Ray Whitney, Eric Staal and Erik Cole as their shooters. Whitney's attempt was stopped by Miller. Danny Briere was the first Sabres shooter, and he made a really nifty hesitation move, faking right, then going left, keeping on the forehand and putting it past Ward. Staal went in with a no-frills type of shot that was easily handled by Miller. Tomas Vanek was next for the Sabres, and his unsuccessful attempt was overly fancy. Erik Cole was Carolina's last chance, but he couldn't make it happen.
Here's what a scoresheet can't tell you:
On the first Sabres goal, Canes defenseman David Tanabe made a terrible mistake in neutral ice, causing a lazy turnover, leading to the goal. He committed a really lazy holding penalty, and made a few other plays that were defensively unsound or just plain irresponsible. I'm not sure that it's a good idea to have him dressed. I'd rather see Anton Babchuk out there.
Most importantly, though, is that I was extremely impressed with the play of the Canes new defenseman Tim Gleason. He was part of that Jack Johnson deal with the Kings. Because he was a left coast player, and a defenseman, and a young one at that, I had never heard of him. He was pretty much the talk of section 112 last night, though. He made some very sound plays, made a ton of hits, and played a really smart game overall. I know it's just one game, but I'm thrilled with our end of that deal. His play was good enough to earn him third star status. I predict that I'll reprise these sentiments many times throughout the season, and I can't stress it enough, but we really like the kid.
Another thing I make note of every time we play the Sabres is that Maxim Afinogenov is an incredible skater. My Sabres fan friend and I agree that if he would quit trying to be such a fancy skater and focus more on finishing plays, he'd put up a ton of points.
Unfortunately, I'm a little pressed for time, and the only picture I've had time to work with is this one I took of Gleason. Later today, I'll work with some others and upload my banner raising photos/movies.