The Buffalo Sabres gave away a game that was rightfully theirs due to great goalkeeping and defense played by them for the first two periods. This was a game in which Buffalo held the momentum through two periods, being without their top goal scorer and goalie. They out shot Carolina 24-13 in the first two periods, while Carolina doubled them up 18-9 in the third period, to score the tying goal and put the game into overtime. Carolina would eventually win this game 2-1 in a shootout.
Jossi Jokinen recorded the only needed goal in the shootout to rightfully give the Hurricanes two points and at a tie for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
This game was just another chapter in the young rivalry growing between these two teams. The Sabres lost a heartbreaking game seven and the Eastern Conference Championship game to the Hurricanes in the 2006 Stanley Cup playoffs. In this being the third out of four meetings between the two teams this season, the Hurricanes have the 2-1 edge, with one more game scheduled April 9 at the RBC Center.
The Hurricanes couldn’t get the puck in the goal despite pulling their goalie early in the first putting the Sabres at a 6-4 disadvantage. Toni Lydman went out first with a delay of game penalty and Patrick Kaleta allowed the Hurricanes to go 5-3 for nearly four minutes, after a hooking penalty. It seemed that the game was in the Sabres hands as they killed off numerous penalties effectively all night.
At a game with an announced attendance of 18,219, it seemed that at least 20-25% of the crowd were Sabres fans looking around at all the blue jerseys and hearing the chants of “Let’s go Buffalo!”.
The Sabres were aggressive all night barraging Cam Ward with 37 shots. Ward was impressive saving all but the rebound put back by Kaleta in the second. Numerous scuffles erupted all night on the ice and off between players and fans. The animosity towards their opponent was best illustrated when the jumbotron stated, “Obama offered Buffalo to Canada as part of his stimulus. Canada politely refused.”
The Sabres had numerous scoring chances in the second period that could have put this game away. They failed to finish on a lot of breakaways and a couple bad breaks, like the puck going of Paille’s skate right in front of the goal, and when Connelly lost the puck on a 1-1 breakaway. Tallinder had some great hits and played great defense all night.
Jaroslav Spacek got hit hard in the second on a hit that left him on the ice for a minute, after trying to get up, and falling again only to leave the game. Kaleta responded by crushing Ruutu into the wall, resulting in a charging penalty.
Babchuk scored on a hard one timer in with 7:34 to go in the second. With the game tied, the Hurricanes became the aggressor. Lalime made numerous saves in the third period, with the Sabres missing opportunities and Cam Ward robbing them of shots, including a glove save on Sekera with 3:38 to play.
Jochen Hecht missed on a wide open wrister on a 3-1 breakaway as the Sabres finished the game pressuring Ward. All in all, it was a battle tonight, one that makes for a great rematch in Raleigh in April, that could determine the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.