SUNRISE, Fla. -- Greetings from South Florida, where few things say Christmastime like Coronas and crab legs on the beach in 75-degree weather. Good times, good times.
Based on my flight down here early Thursday morning and by all the folks in Sabres and Bills gear on Vanilla Ice's favorite street (A1A, Beachfront Avenue), this should be like a home game for the Sabres. There's a huge contingent that flew down from snowy, cold Buffalo to see the Sabres play the Panthers tonight and watch the Bills play down the road in Miami on Sunday.
Smart move considering it's 75 degrees.
Ran into Patrick Kaleta, Paul Gaustad and Jason Pominville along the beachfront Thursday night, and Gaustad said Kaleta could hardly take a few steps without running into a Buffalonian he knew.
Good move by the fans to come down considering it's 75 degrees. Oh, did my sun-tanned fingers type that already?
7:31 p.m.: OK, now that is a little more of the Christmas spirit. The Panthers Ice Dancers (along with Atlanta and Dallas, the best in the NHL) did a routine to "Let it Snow" in two-piece, white elf-like outfits. I'm sorry you missed it.
7:33 p.m.: Former Sabres forward Steve Bernier will be out for the opening faceoff for the Panthers, who are using Tomas Vokoun in net. The Sabres, who are starting Ryan Miller, will open with the line of Tim Connolly between Tyler Ennis and Kaleta.
7:37 p.m.: Quality anthem by Tory Trowbridge of the musical "Cats." Game on.
7:39 p.m.: Good thing all the Buffalo people came or there'd be a lot less than the 7,000 or so people here.
7:41 p.m.: The Panthers fans get to cheer first on Bryan McCabe's goal just 1:40 in. Miller came out to stop his first slap shot, but McCabe got the rebound and skated left to get an empty-net angle.
7:42 p.m.: Sabres on the power play as Bryan Allen hooks Kaleta with 17:23 left. The Panthers opened with the first four shots of the game.
7:45 p.m. Panthers allow one shot in killing the penalty.
7:48 p.m.: A quick whistle by the refs prohibited the Sabres from tying the game with 15:02 left. Vokoun stopped but did not cover a shot by Mike Weber, and Gaustad quickly flipped the puck home. The whistle went before he did so, though. It's 1-0 Florida with Buffalo holding a 5-4 shot edge with 12:47 to go.
7:53 p.m.: Steve Montador scores to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead with 11:37 left. Yes, you read that right. A shot by Florida's Marty Reasoner hit Montador's skate in front and caromed into the net.
7:54 p.m.: Sabres get another power play as Darcy Hordichuk goes off for holding with 11 minutes left.
7:56 p.m. Save by Vokoun on Derek Roy's doorstep chance allows Panthers to kill penalty.
7:57 p.m.: Crowd has gotten bigger. Probably around 10,000.
7:59 p.m.: It's 2-0 Panthers with 7:03 left.
8:03 p.m.: Reasoner gets his second goal and third point to give the Panthers a 3-0 lead with 5:52 left. Defenseman Jason Garrison shot wide on purpose, and the back-board carom went right to Reasoner, who fired before Miller could slide across the crease.
8:07 p.m.: Gaustad goes for hooking with 4:40 left.
8:09 p.m.: David Booth beats his buddy Miller on the power play with 3:32 left to make it 4-0. For all the fans who made the journey -- well, at least it was 75 degrees.
8:14 p.m.: The period comes to a merciful end for the Sabres, who trail, 4-0. They also took a penalty just before the buzzer, so Florida will have a two-minute power play with fresh ice when the second period starts. Sabres hold 14-10 shot edge, not that it matters.
8:31 p.m.: No surprise here -- Patrick Lalime is in net for the Sabres.
8:35 p.m.: Sabres kill the interference call on Rob Niedermayer.
8:38 p.m.: Niedermayer goes back to the box for cross-checking with 15:17 left.
8:41 p.m.: Sabres kill the penalty but still trail, 4-0, with 13:16 to go.
8:42 p.m.: Not sure if Tom Golisano is here to possibly see his team in his home state for the final time, but if so, I'm sure he's thinking "sell, sell, sell" after watching this.
8:47 p.m.: It's 4-0 with 8:50 to go.
8:55 p.m.: Kaleta rolls around with Dennis Wideman while Gaustad exchanges swipes with McCabe as the teams head to the commercial break with 4:42 to go. It's still 4-0. The Sabres have 18 shots, the Panthers have 16.
9:01 p.m.: Lalime has no chance as the Panthers make it 5-0 with 1:02 left. Stephen Weiss' cross-ice pass found a wide-open Michael Frolik, who had no trouble burying the shot before Lalime could slide across.
9:03 p.m.: Derek Roy gives the Buffalo backers reason to wake up, scoring on a top-shelf slap shot with 18.5 seconds left to make it 5-1.
9:04 p.m.: The Sabres finish the period with a 5-1 defict, 26-17 shot edge and 1:53 left on a power play.
9:22 p.m.: Sure, why not add a short-handed goal to the debacle? Chris Higgins steals the puck from Jason Pominville behind the Buffalo net, gives it to a wide-open Weiss at the top of the crease, and the Panthers have a 6-1 lead with just 13 seconds gone.
9:27 p.m.: Tim Connolly scored ont eh power play with 18:19 left, and Kaleta is in the box for four minutes after going high and late to hit Dmitry Kulikov on a dump-in with 16:40 to go.
9:38 p.m.: It's 6-2 with 11 minutes left with the Sabres going on the power play after a cross-check by Hordichuk.
9:46 p.m.: Bryan Allen gives the Sabres another power play, going off for cross checking with 6:21 to play.
9:50 p.m.: The Panthers kill the penalty.
9:54 p.m.: That's it as the Sabres limp to Tampa for Saturday's game with a 6-2 debacle. It's the third time they've given up a six-pack this season. Chicago and Philadelphia also did it.