UNIONDALE, L.I. -- I'm as fun-loving as they come, and I'm definitely an optimistic person. Still, when I was boarding the plane for the flight to New York this morning and learned the mother of my close friend was in the final stages of Hospice care, I immediately wondered: Who's the third?
Death comes in threes, they say, and I've long noticed. So following this week's sad passing of Paul Hamilton's wife and the unfortunate news regarding Mrs. Phyllis Bonfessuto today, I sensed the pall of a third.
I never figured this afternoon's call would be my mom crying because her husband died in their South Carolina backyard.
My sincere condolences to my mom and everyone involved in all three deaths. Ken Held, my mom's husband, was a fine, quiet man, a former railroad worker who enjoyed the outdoors and -- in a highly intelligent move -- hated snow, hence their move to South Carolina. He was great with my son Ty, teaching him about things outside my areas of expertise (Beavis and Butthead, motorcycles and hunting guns immediately come to mind). He and my mother had quality years, and I wish there were plenty more.
Mrs. Bonfessuto has always been the even-keeled conscience in a house full of opinions and emotions, a house she welcomed me into back in my college days when home was wherever the wind and parties sent me.
I never had the fortune of meeting Dawn Hamilton, but I've learned quite a bit about her through the years covering the Sabres with Paul of WGR. His stories of her triumphs and progress throughout a cancer battle were always good to hear.
Again, my condolences to Mom, the Bonfessutos and Dawn Hamilton's family.
Back soon with actual hockey talk. Let's get going, eh?
7:08 p.m.: The Sabres are starting with their hot line of Paul Gaustad, Cody McCormick and Nathan Gerbe. Tyler Myers and Andrej Sekera are on defense.
7:10 p.m.: The Sabres, for the second straight game, skipped the morning skate. They have the first two shots with 17:55 left.
7:14 p.m.: Ryan Miller announces his presence with a big arm save on Michael Grabner's shot from the slot with 15:09 to go.
7:16 p.m.: Sabres hit the first commercial with a 3-2 shot edge in a scoreless game with 13:52 left. The Ice Girls also hit the ice for the first commercial.
7:22 p.m.: The Sabres have, at least temporarily, lost Mike Grier. The forward lost his footing trying to pick up a loose puck with 11:15 to go, slowly got up from the ice and is in obvious pain at the end of the Sabres' bench.
7:24 p.m.: All the Sabres who talked up the Isles as a fast, energetic team were right. Led by speedy Michael Grabner, they can fly. It's no score at the second commercial as the Nassau Coliseum fans give a standing ovation to Senior Master Sgt. Andrew Raymond with 7:57 left.
7:28 p.m.: Miller stops a two-on-zero -- yes, a two-on-zero -- holding firm as John Tavares feeds P.A. Parenteau and shoots the return pass. Parenteau never sold that he might shoot, allowing Miller to cheat toward Tavares with 6:34 to go.
7:31 p.m.: Isles get the first power play as Steve Montador goes for holding with 5:12 to go. Isles have a 9-8 shot edge in the scoreless game.
7:34 p.m.: Grier is helping kill the penalty.
7:36 p.m.: Tough run for Tavares as he whiffs on a wide-open rebound after Miller stops Radek Martinek's point blast with 3:14 to go.
7:38 p.m.: The Isles miss another point-blank chance as Blake Comeau fires wide from the slot after a Buffalo turnover with 1:42 left.
7:39 p.m.: Sabres get a power play when Milan Jurcina trips Tyler Ennis with 33.2 seconds left.
7:41 p.m.: It's scoreless after one, but the Sabres will have a stellar chance to take the lead at the start of the second. Martinek high-sticked Thomas Vanek with 16.0 seconds left and headed to the box. The Sabres will have 1:27 left on the five-on-three when play resumes.
7:59 p.m.: It takes the Sabres just 17 seconds to score and take a 1-0 lead. Thomas Vanek enters the zone, loses the puck and Ennis recovers. He feeds a wide-open Vanek at the post.
8:01 p.m.: Isles leave the penalty box with no further damage. It's 1-0 Buffalo with 17:57 to go as the Sabres take a 16-15 shot edge.
8:05 p.m.: Isles get another power-play chance as Rob Niedermayer goes to the box for hooking with 16:16 left.
8:07 p.m.: Niedermayer is out, and the Sabres are still up 1-0.
8:09 p.m.: Commercial hits with 12:39 to go, with Sabres holding 1-0 lead and 19-17 shot edge.
8:12 p.m.: Tavares finally buries a chance, tying the game with 12:10 to go. Left alone in front, he rips Parenteau's pass from behind the net off the crossbar and in.
8:15 p.m.: Play is stopped with 10:46 left as Jurcina collides with Ennis and leaves the ice with towel covering his bloodied forehead.
8:16 p.m.: Niedermayer heads back to box for high-sticking with 9:33 left. That's two penalties so far. As you probably know, he has zero goals in 34-plus games.
8:18 p.m.: Tavares, who should have four goals, gets his second with 9:26 left, making the Sabres pay for Niedermayer's penalty. Tavares tips Matt Moulson's pass to the top of the crease off Miller, then backhands the rebound to give New York a 2-1 lead.
8:24 p.m.: Here come the hats! Tavares completes his natural hat trick with 6:24 left to give the Isles a 3-1 lead. Seconds after Miller stops his backhand, Tavares pokes home a rebound. Parenteau tips Andrew MacDonald's point shot off the post and off Miller's back, and Tavares cleans up.
8:28 p.m.: And it's 4-1 as the Sabres' defense again falls apart. Josh Bailey is allowed to skate toward the bottom of the circle and feeds Comeau, whose deflection gets by Miller with 4:35 to go. I'd've called a timeout by now, but the Sabres are acting like Kevin Bacon in "Animal House" -- Thank you, sir, may I have another?!
By the way, my buddy Tom Doody and I met Otis Day last weekend in Phoenix after he played at the Oregon pep rally. Quality picture, and good times.
8:33 p.m.: Sabres get a chance to end period with some hope as Jeremy Colliton (who?) gets a tripping call with 2:22 to go.
8:38 p.m.: The momentum belongs to the Isles, who head to the dressing room with a 4-1 lead and 33-28 shot edge. Yup, 33 shots in 40 minutes.
8:55 p.m.: Miller leads the Sabres into the third period. Figured it might be Patty Lalime time, but I guess not.
8:55 p.m.: Not that Miller was to blame on any of the goals. Just figured a few minutes rest wouldn't hurt for a guy making his 21st straight start.
It's 9 o'clock on a Saturday: And Jurcina is going to the penalty box for interference with 15:24 left.
9:02 p.m. The Sabres score their second power-play goal of the night. Jordan Leopold fires wide from the right point, and Ennis buries a shot from the left side before DiPietro can slide across and get settled with 14:05 left.
It's 4-2 with the commercial break hitting at 13:53. The Ice Girls are out shoveling the ice in their third outfits of the night.
9:10 p.m.: DiPietro stops Ennis with 10:09 left, keeping the score 4-2. Coach Jack Capuano senses the momentum shift and calls a timeout. Nice.
9:20 p.m.: Just got back from a very brief chat with Darcy Regier. ESPN's Pierre LeBrun just reported the Sabres are one of six teams invited by the league to open in Europe next season. Regier told me that nothing has been finalized.
It's still 4-2 with 5:39 left.
9:30 p.m.: Grabner and Jochen Hecht trade late goals, as the Islanders beat the Sabres, 5-3.