Greetings from HSBC Arena, where time will just about be up for the Sabres if they don't beat the Florida Panthers tonight. Cracked one veteran Sabres observer at today's morning skate: "We need an 11-game winning streak about now." Of course, there's only 10 games left!
It's a fight to the finish among the Sabres and Panthers for the right to say which team is gagging the worst:
---The Sabres are 1-5-1 in their last seven games. They are 0-3-1 in the last four -- going 0 for 19 on the power play. They are 1 for their last 26 on the PP. They are an NHL-worst 3-6-1 in their last 10 games and join Los Angeles as the only teams with just one road win in their last 10 away from home.
A pretty ugly state of affairs for sure. If you haven't voted already -- more than 1,000 of you already have -- be sure to go to our Web poll to have your say on who should bear the brunt of the blame for the Sabres' collapse.
---Florida, meanwhile, is just 1-3-3 in its last seven games and has only scored 13 goals in them. The Panthers' power play has been brutal too, going 2 for 22 in those seven contests. You think the Sabres' front office has issues? Last month, when things looked good for the playoff run, the Panthers made a playoff guarantee. Now they're desperate to avoid giving away free tickets to four games next season for fans who bought a four-pack for the stretch drive, an idea that coach Peter DeBoer was behind. Oops!
You don't trade Jay Bouwmeester at the deadline because you need to make a run and then you don't make it? That's a disaster waiting to happen. Speaking of Bouwmeester, one of the top UFAs-to-be this summer has 14 goals for a defense unit that leads the leads the league with a franchise-record 44.
16:35 left: Story of the Sabres season as the Panthers go up, 3-1. Michael Frolik may have just scored on a broken stick as the puck hit a bunch of bodies after the shaft exploded on the shot. Maybe it hit McLean in front or Tallinder or Lydman. Good night. See you in October.
14:24 left: Richard Zednik should never come into this building again. He just got smoked in the face by a shot from Cory Stillman and went to the dressing room bleeding with a towel to his face.
13:46 left: Let the great tease began. Tallinder's floater from the left point is deflected out of the air by Pominville to make it 3-2. Yes, I said Pominville. His 16th of the year but only his fourth since Jan. 3.
12:55 left: MacArthur blasts one between Vokoun's legs -- hey, take a shot, right? -- and it's suddenly 3-3. Makes up for Tellqvist's flub of the Zednik goal.
12:04 left: Panthers falling apart. Cullimore gone for blasting Gaustad into the post (cross-checking) and Nathan Horton for roughing on a late hit to Kaleta. moore for roughing for Buffalo (no one up here saw that one).
11:39 left: Where has this been for the last three weeks? Connolly's blast from the point is tipped home by Bouwmeester to give the Sabres a 4-3 lead. Three goals in 2:07. Who wrote something about October? Panthers take a basketball-style timeout.Their playoff lives hanging in the balance too, remember.
5:45 left: How many 2-on-1s will this team miss on? At least Pominville got a shot on goal on this one. Shots are 17-4 in this period and 41-29 for the game -- third straight game Sabres have hit 40.
31.2 left: Afinogenov puts it away into the empty net for a 5-3 lead and all hell breaks loose after a late hit by Horton and Ballard. Rivet takes care of Ballard with several bombs as the crowd erupts. Huge win. Forget about October. March lives for another day. Sweet Caroline. The whole thing. Could have been like this for the last three weeks if these guys had shown up every night. Sorry, them's the facts.
It's over: Final shots were 45-33 -- 21-9 in the third. Super final 14 minutes.
Of note: As Tyler points out in the comments, MSG did in fact show some of the Ruff-Max dustup and Rob Ray, who probably heard a good chunk of it from his perch between the benches, was right there with some play-by-play. So a thumbs-up to the television crew for not playing company line by keeping the camera away and the videotape machine down. Confirming what Cliff said in the comments, the two forwards with the least amount of ice time in the first period were Connolly (4:05) and Pominville (4:10).
Never put the lines up and some of you have asked: MacArthur-Gaustad-Kaleta started. The others are Vanek-Connolly-Pominville, Hecht-Roy-Stafford and Paille-Moore-Afinogenov. On defense, it's Butler-Rivet, Lydman-Tallinder and Spacek-Sekera.
16:43 left: Tellqvist has made two stellar saves after giveaways from Sekera and Roy, the latter with Buffalo on a power play. Yeesh.
14:37 left: A great shift by Afinogenov with two strong scoring chances after he forced a turnover at the Buffalo line. Message received and delivered.
11:00 left: Vanek fritters away a 2-on-1 with an ill-advised pass to Pominville. How about your key goal scorer just going to the net and FIRING the puck?
9:56 left: MacArthur for interference a few seconds after the Panthers obstructed Kaleta in their zone and got away with it.
5:57 left: Is Vanek going to shoot or not? Enough of passing to Pominville, who is as cold as the basement freezer. SHOOT!! Another 2-on-1 blown and this time Vanek was in point-blank range.
5;05 left: The Panthers go up, 2-1, as Richard Zednik surprises Tellqvist with a quick shot from the goalie's right. Gotta make that save. Leaning too much to the middle to play that pass. Hey Vanek: SHOOT!
4:43 left: And it gets worse as Afinogenov goes off for interference in the offensive zone. Ruff will like that.
End of the 2nd: It's 2-1 for the Panthers through 40 minutes. Sabres booed off the ice after first 59 seconds of a power play (Bryan McCabe for interference) don't get anywhere. Shots are 24-24 (15-12 for Florida in that period. Sabres are 4-21-2 when trailing after two; Panthers are 25-2-3 when leading through two.
16:46 left: I'd say plenty of high-priced season ticket-holders have already given up the ghost. While the 300 level is packed, there are tons of empties in the 100s and 200s. A bit of a political statement right there from the paying customers.
13:59 left: As usual, Sabres playing a strong first period. Fourth line of Moore-Afinogenov-Paille has had a couple solid shifts. Tellqvist made a strong stop at the 15-minute mark on Stephen Weiss after a brutal giveaway by Toni Lydman, who's been good for a couple a period lately. Somehow, as of yet, that has not been counted as a shot on goal. Bizarre. (OK, after quite a delay. The shot is up so it's 4-1 for the Sabres in that department).
10:29 left: The Panthers go in front, 1-0, as Brett McLean tips one in from the point after some lax work in the Buffalo end. Big chance a few seconds earlier from the Moore line went awry. Missed opportunities.
7:35 left: Another good save on Weiss by Tellqvist. Sabres getting completely outworked in their own end. So much for desperate hockey.
4:49 left: The boos are out in force as the Moore line ruined its status this period. After the puck was hemmed in for nearly a minute with the trio on the ice, the Panthers were conceding a change but Afinogenov nearly gave it away right in front of the net.
From I'm-sure-this-isn't-on-MSG Dept: Ruff and Afinogenov have had an extended and animated shouting match on the bench and it's hardly been one-sided. Afinogenov is spreading his arms in a "what do you want me to do" mode and Ruff is howling back at him. Yep, this thing is a trainwreck. Maybe Ruff should have been spending some of that energy on, um, Connolly, Pominville, Hecht, Roy, et al.
13.3 seconds left: The Sabres tie it on a power play as Craig Rivet of all people sneaks in from the left point and buries a deflected puck from the faceoff circle into a mostly open net. Pominville and the alleged scorers would do well to take a lesson: Rivet calmly got the puck, sized up the situation and buried it. His second of the year and he looked a LOT better than the scorers in doing it.
End of the 1st: Shots are 12-9 for Buffalo although the Panthers outworked them much of the period. Nice work by Tellqvist. Pretty fortunate to be in a 1-1 tie. Let's see if a last-second goal provides some momentum.
taggedSabres game day