The Buffalo Sabres started off the weekend on a huge note. They won in extremely convincing fashion by pummeling the Atlanta Thrashers 8-2 on home ice Saturday night.
HSBC Arena had plenty to cheer about – and often. Jason Pominville scored just 37 seconds into the first period after a great clearance in front of the net by Tim Connolly. After the Thrashers tied the game at 1, Buffalo retaliated with a goals from unlikely Sabres – Mark Mancari‘s first goal as a Sabre on the power play, and Rob Niedermayer with a nifty backhand. The second period began with Atlanta bringing the game within one goal, but after the Sabres’ Tyler Ennis scored on a great breakaway slapshot to make it 4-2, Buffalo wouldn’t look back. 5 straight goals cemented an 8-2 embarrassment of the Thrashers, including power play goals from Brad Boyes and Tim Connolly.
With this win, the Sabres improved to 34-28-8 with 78 points.
They returned to HSBC Arena the next day to face the Nashville Predators in a game with a 5PM start, meaning a quick 19-hour turnaround after the previous night.
After trailing 1-0 in the first period, the Sabres rallied with another 3-goal second period and goals from Nathan Gerbe and Tim Connolly. Then on the power play late in the period, Tyler Ennis tapped in a rebound to make it 3-1 Buffalo. The Sabres continued their strong play for almost all of the third period. Buffalo also out-shot Nashville and had many more scoring chances, including many many missed opportunities for one of the Sabres’ best snipers, Thomas Vanek. However, none of this would matter, as late in the third, the Preds’ Blake Geoffrion scored two very quick, fluky goals within 1:02 of one another to tie the game up 3-3, and a complete a hat trick.
Going into overtime, the Sabres looked dazed and unknowing of what just hit them. They’d been looking to cruise to another victory, when suddenly, the game was going to overtime. And overtime didn’t last long, as Nashville’s Martin Erat hammered a pass home just a minute into the extra period to complete the 4-3 comeback victory for the Predators. Buffalo’s Ryan Miller, who let in some rather soft shots, stormed off of the ice, visibly furious. The more sure-handed goaltender on Sunday night was surprisingly not Miller, but rather Nashville’s backup goaltender, Anders Lindback. Lindback played tremendously in goal, stopping 35 of 38 shots including many quick pad saves.
This was certainly a head-scratcher for the Sabres. The optimist would look at this game and note that Buffalo got a point out of it, but clearly, the fans and players felt like they’d given a point away.
The loss dropped Buffalo to 34-28-9 and the 1 point upped their total to 79, remaining 8th in the East.