Greetings from HSBC Arena for today's Sabres-Islanders matinee. We still have to get some roster moves cleaer today, both Patrick Kaleta's status and what the Islanders will do in the wake of the suspensions of Mike Martin and Trevor Gillies.
But we have breaking news out of Pittsburgh with a furious statement issued by Penguins owner/icon Mario Lemieux. Click the link. Trust me.
Lemieux called Friday's game a "travesty" and a "sideshow." He said the league falied to mete out proper justice, and that it "must do a better job of protecting the integrity of the game and the safety of our players."
Then came the whopping final paragraph from Lemieux: "If the events relating to Friday night reflect the state of the league, I need to re-think whether I want to be a part of it."
Wow. This is not nearly the last we're going to hear about this. I think Lemieux's anger is clearly directed at the four-game ban Martin received for his blindside shot to the head of Max Talbot that brought comparisons to Todd Bertuzzi-Todd Moore. But hey, Mario: What about Matt Cooke's constant head-hunting?
Warmups: Mikko Koskinen (2-1, 3.60, .894) takes the ice first for Isles and will meet Ryan Miller in goal. As scheduled, both Patrick Kaleta and Paul Byron on the ice. Decision on Kaleta TBA.
2:58 p.m.: Kaleta is in, Byron is a scratch along with Montador and Rivet.
Sabres starters: Niedermayer-Gaustad-Grier-Weber-Morrisonn. Goal: Miller
Islanders starters: Okposo-Nielsen-Grabner-Hamonic-MacDonald. Goal: Koskinen.
Of note: The Sabres are tied for second in the NHL with 10 OT wins. They are 6-5 in game-deciding goals -- and have won their last four decisions. They lead the NHL with a 4-0 record in shootouts.
4:44 left: Stafford just misses on Connolly feed.
4:02 left: Montoya makes a couple stops on Leopold.
2:05 left: Grabner on a breakaway. Pass off Sekera. Brutal 7-6 loss. Only shot of OT against Miller.
4:52 pm.: The puck is dropped.
17:00 left: Jeez. Grabner ties it with a bullet over Miller's shoulder after a cross-ice giveaway by Gaustad. Might be screened. Nice shot. But make a save. Game tied, 4-4.
16:20 left: Big save by Montoya on Hecht.
14:34 left: Myers whistles one home from the right over Montoya's shoulder. Nice feed from Pominville, who was barely stopped on a wraparound a few seconds earlier. Nice answer. Sabres lead, 5-4. Myers' eighth.
14:25 left: Vanek stopped on a 3-on-1. That would have been huge.
11:11 left: Tight, tight game. Shots 19-19 but nine goals. Some bad goaltending at both ends.
9:58 left: Ennis goes for hooking. Eh. Guess so.
8:56 left: Hecht goes for hooking. Sabres two-men short for 58 seconds.
8:28 left: Connolly and Gaustad lost both draws on the 5-on-3 and Jurcina blasts home a one-timer. Game tied, 5-5.
7:12 left: Disaster. Ty Wishart's shot from the left point goes in off Morrisonn. Islanders lead, 6-5.
6:41 left: All three goaltenders brutal in this one. Montoya no better. Makes save on Leopold and gives up big rebound. Stafford pumps it home and here come the hats. NHL-high fourth hat trick of the year. Game tied, 6-6.Twelve goals on 45 shots in this one. And the place erupts.
5:28 left: It would be nice if the reigning Vezina Trophy winner would not allow a seventh goal to the team that's second-last in the East. Just a thought. This is a must-win against two AHL-level goalies.
1:45 left: Isles hem Buffalo in but Sabres finally survive. Harmonic goes for interference on Gerbe. That was a pretty marginal call too.
31.3 left: Brutal power play until Montoya stops Sekera's shot.
On to OT: Montoya holds the Sabres off in the final seconds. Shots were 11-9 for Buffalo in the third and 26-25 for regulation. There are 15 seconds left on the penalty.
4;01 p.m. The puck is dropped. Harmonic got a 10-minute misconduct after the buzzer of the first period. Clearly griping that the Kaleta hit should have been more than just a minor. And he had a point.
19:23 left: Good news. Sekera back on the ice.
17:49 left: Gervais for interference, slowing up Vanek in the neutral zone. Easy call. Stupid penalty. Take advantage.
16:47 left: Stafford barely wide for the hat trick off a Vanek feed. Koskinen then made a good save on Connolly's low bullet from the left point.
15:29 left: Power play has a couple close calls. No matter. Gerbe absolutely undresses Milan Jurcina with the sensational toe drag and then burns Koskinen with a low shot for his seventh. Another stoppable one. And here comes Al Montoya for his Isles debut. Four goals on 14 shots against Koskinen. Sabres lead, 4-2.
13:00 left: It's a franchise record for the Islanders. Seven goalies used. And remember, Evgeni Nabokov is still on suspension.
12:34 left: McCormick goes for elbowing. Chintzy call at best.
8:51 left: Wild sequence as Martinek hits the post behind a beaten Miller, Stafford just fails to get away on a breakaway and now PA Parenteau goes for slashing.
8:16 left: Power play fail. Leopold goes for hooking and then hooking Nielsen again on the subsequent breakaway. Could have been a penalty shot easy.
7:30 left: Miller much better in this period. Stops Jurcina in alone on a 2-on-1.
5:18 left: Down to 1:03 left in the penalty. Miller has made two more good saves. Shots are 6-3 for the Isles in this period and I'd say four of the six Islander shots were quality chances.
3:44 left: Sabres kill it off.
2:00 left: Morrisonn to the dressing room after he gets tangled in the corner with Parenteau. Didn't seem to be favoring anything. Tough to tell. He's been really good today and in recent games.
1:05 left: Sabres let Blake Comeau skate all around the net and he comes out from behind to Miller's left and squirts one through the goalie's legs on the backhand. Ex-Vezina winners simply don't let that in. Period. Sabres lead, 4-3.
End-2nd: Sabres hold their 4-3 lead. Shots were 7-4 for the Islanders (16-15 for visitors through two). Buffalo had just one shot on goal in the final 15:29 after the Gerbe goal. Montoya not tested at all.
3:07 p.m.: The puck is dropped.
19:20 left: Michael Grabner is making a great Calder run. Just went around Miller and beat Morrisonn to the other post for his 22nd of the year. Islanders lead, 1-0.
16:03 left: Myers a little shaky after taking an inadvertent high stick from Okposo. Accidental, yes. Still has to be a penalty.
13:37 left: Shots are 3-3 and the Sabres are doing a good job creating pressure in the Islanders' zone. Kaleta has made his presence known, crushing the boards on one near-hit and then wiping out John Tavares on another. Let's see if there's any retribution from the Islanders on that one, especially with their goon squad suspended.
13:14 left: Jochen Hecht trips over the Islanders' blue line with no one around and the puck goes in the Buffalo zone. Then Hecht comes out with it, skates down the left side and puts a routine shot between Koskinen's legs. That would be a bad goal in the AHL. Hecht's ninth. Game tied, 1-1.
12:18 left: Stafford makes it 2-1 with a tap-in of a Connolly rebound that Koskinen kicked right to Ennis, who tapped it toward the crease. Keep shooting on this kid. No. 21 for No. 21 Sabres lead, 2-1.
7:11 left: Was just going to say no chances for the Islanders since the goal and they tie it up. Travis Hamonic's shot drills Sekera and Tavares backhands home the rebound. Sekera is helped off. No pressure on the left leg. Not good. Game tied, 2-2. Miller has to be better than Koskinen in this game. Period.
5:51 left: Shots are 8-5 for Buffalo. The building is library-quiet.
5:30 left: Ennis skates Perreault-like through three Islanders and beats Koskinen with a backhand but the puck hits the post/side of the net. This guy is a sieve. Keep shooting.
2:42 left: Miller robs Grabner from in front after Leopold got stripped in the corner.
2:21 left: And the big save turns into a goal. Stafford's second of the game and 22nd of the year. Great tic-tac-toe from Connolly to Ennis to the crease. Sabres lead, 3-2. Three goals on 11 shots.
1:29 left: Kaleta is running around way too much. He gets a charging call for crushing Harmonic. Right in the head too. He's lucky that wasn't a game misconduct.
End-1st: Sabres hold their 3-2 lead. Shots are 11-9 for Buffalo. There are 31 seconds left in the Kaleta penalty. This just in from Sabres stat guru Kevin Snow: Stafford has five goals on his last five shots. Wow.