ATLANTA -- Hey, weren't we just here?
Indeed, the Sabres will have already completed their season series in Atlanta with just a few weeks off the schedule as soon as tonight's game ends. For a former Georgia resident, that's a bit of a shame. But it's been a quality four days in the South hanging out with some great friends in Columbus, Ga., Auburn, Ala., and Atlanta; my mom stopped in for lunch from her home in South Carolina; and -- to top it all off -- I got to watch the San Francisco Giants move two steps closer to their World Series title.
Unfortunately, I won't get to see much of their next step despite being mere miles away from Game Three. The Sabres visit the Dallas Stars on Saturday, at the same time the soon-to-be-vanquished Texas Rangers host the Giants. So I figure, if you include the 40 players and the eight or so media members, there will probably be about 48 people at the hockey game. And that, of course, assumes that I don't call in sick and go scalp a ticket to watch Jonathan Sanchez pitch a marvel.
I'd given some serious thought to skipping my flight home Sunday and catching Game Four, but I'd be all alone in my Giants cap and Barry Bonds shirt surrounded by angry Texans. Although I'm pretty scrappy, I think I'd end up like Davy Crockett at the Alamo. More importantly, there's no better place than RC Land to watch your favorite sports team finally become a champion.
The Sabres have just taken the ice, and Craig Rivet is scratched for the Sabres. Trying to find out if it's healthy or shoulder-related, so we shall see.
7:16 p.m.: Early word is Rivet is a healthy scratch. That will certainly get the dressing room's attention, eh?
7:38 p.m.: Game on, without the healthy Buffalo captain.
7:41 p.m.: Much bigger crowd than last week. There might be 5,000 people here. To make it look more cozy in Philips Arena, they have curtained-off the upper level.
7:43 p.m.: Shaone Morrisonn welcomes himself back into the lineup with 16:27 left by sending Bryan Little crashing into the boards and off the ice with the help of a trainer. Little went to shoot in the Buffalo zone, and Morrisonn arrived during his backswing. The off-balance forward hit the boards hard.
7:45 p.m.: Cody McCormick and Tim Connolly combine to give the Sabres a 1-0 lead with 15:09 left. McCormick keeps an Atlanta clearing attempt in the zone, sends the puck toward the net, and Connolly stops it, spins and beats Chris Mason low from the top of the crease.
7:53 p.m.: Paul Gaustad misses a point-blank chance with 11:45 left, leaving the score at 1-0. The Sabres have seven of the nine shots.
7:54 p.m.: The Thrashers, who were outshot, 11-2, during the first period last week, call a timeout with 11:07 to go.
8:01 p.m.: The Thrashers have a goal taken off the board with 8:48 to go. Chris Thorburn stole a Sabres clearing attempt and beat Ryan Miller with a shot, but the play was nullified by a boarding penalty by Nik Antropov. An entire section of Sabres fans stands to applaud.
8:04 p.m.: Jordan Leopold gives Buffalo a 2-0 lead with 6:20 left, pinching in from the point and burying a pass from Derek Roy, who was below the goal line.
8:05 p.m.: A very loud "Let's go, Buffalo" chant ensues.
8:13 p.m.: Miller makes his top save of the night so far, getting a blocker on Alexander Burmistrov's slot attempt with 1:50 to go.
8:15 p.m.: The section of Sabres fans cheers as Buffalo ends the period with a 2-0 lead and 14-6 shot advantage.
8:31 p.m: Used the intermission to find Rivet, and the captain declined the interview and said he'd chat with me Saturday in Dallas.
8:34 p.m.: Game on.
8:38 p.m.: The Sabres get a two-man advantage with 17:33 left.
8:40 p.m.: The Sabres still have 43 seconds of power-play time left, but it's a four-on-three as Derek Roy goes off for holding.
8:43 p.m.: Thrashers kill their infractions and go on the power play.
8:44 p.m.: Teams are back at full strength with Sabres still holding a 2-0 lead with 13:46 to go.
8:50 p.m.: Good thing the Sabres spent much of this week practicing their three-on-fives because with penalties to Rob Niedermayer and Morrisonn, Atlanta has a two-man advantage for 1:39.
8:52 p.m.: They need more practice. Antropov scores with 10:07 left to cut Buffalo's lead to 2-1.
8:54 p.m.: The Sabres' penalty-killers get through the remaining 56 seconds of Atlanta's one-man advantage, but they have two more minutes to go now after Drew Stafford takes a tripping penalty with 9:04 remaining.
9 p.m.: The Sabres kill Stafford's infraction.
9:02 p.m.: Burmistrov is smiling like a kid who just scored his first NHL goal -- because he just did with 6:27 left to make the score 2-2. Sabres will get a chance to answer as Zach Bogosian takes a penalty with 5:07 to go after hitting Patrick Kaleta.
9:08 p.m.: Tyler Myers' super-wide slap shot blasts Nathan Gerbe on left side of the jaw, and the forward heads to the dressing room with 3:22 left. The Thrashers head back to even strength with 3:04 left.
9:13 p.m.: The second period ends in a 2-2 tie, with Sabres holding an 18-15 shot advantage.
9:33 p.m.: The Thrashers, on the power play after a penalty to Kaleta at the end of the second, score just 50 seconds in to take a 3-2 lead. Tyler Ennis is headed to the box for hooking with 18:13 left.
9:43 p.m.: Atlanta is still up, 3-2, and going on the power play with 10:38 left.
9:49 p.m.: Still 3-2 with 7:54 to go.
9:55 p.m.: Still 3-2 with 5:05 left. I think I'm deaf with the speaker volume in this place. Dudes, there's nobody here. You can shout from the rafters and people will hear you. No need for the jackhammer.
10:03 p.m.: Mason gets tangled with Paul Gaustad in the crease with 7.3 seconds left, and Derek Roy scores from a tough angle to tie the game.
10:12 p.m.: Dustin Byfuglien scores with 29.0 seconds left in overt time to give Atlanta the win.