If the Buffalo Sabres thought they were going to have home ice advantage for Friday night’s tilt against the Calgary Flames at First Niagara Center, they were probably taken aback by the sea of red jerseys littering the stands during the home team’s warm-ups. Calgary’s only visit to Buffalo this season, and first since November 13th, 2009 (a Sabres 2-1 shootout victory), seemingly brought many Calgary fans out of the woodwork. When the puck dropped for real, though, there was no doubt who the majority of the sell-out crowd came to cheer for.
Sabres coach Lindy Ruff gave the nod to goaltender Jhonas Enroth over the struggling Ryan Miller, drawing many cheers from the stands, but shocking pretty much no one. The beginning of the contest saw Buffalo looking a little nervous, with a couple clumsy giveaways that led to a few Flames scoring chances. Around the four minute mark, however, Buffalo started cycling the puck with confidence and had some good opportunities to score, sniffing around Flames goaltender Henrik Karlsson‘s door for a goal. Finally, at the 7:59 mark, the Sabres were rewarded. Derek Roy fed a gorgeous one-timer to Sabres winger Drew Stafford for his fourth goal of the year to give Buffalo a 1-0 lead. From that moment on, and for the rest of the first period, the Sabres dominated play with relentless pressure on the overwhelmed Flames defense. Three Flames penalties contributed to the Sabres onslaught, and if it weren’t for Flames goalie Karlsson making a few Dominik Hasek-like saves, the score could have easily been 4-0. Roy won 6 out of 8 face-offs to dominate the circle, and was easily Buffalo’s best player, though there weren’t many passengers during the opening 20 minutes. The Sabres went to the dressing room with a 1-0 lead, outshooting the Flames 18-8.
The second period saw the Sabres continuing their strong play, until around the 6 minute mark. Stafford took a minor penalty, which was quickly followed up by a delay of game penalty given to Sabres defenseman Andrej Sekera. With a 5 on 3 for about a minute and a half, the Flames exerted their will against a pinned down Sabres team. The majority of the power play was spent in the Buffalo end, with Enroth making some highlight reel saves, earning several loud ovations from the appreciative crowd. At one point, Enroth made a spectacular glove save on a clearly disgusted Flames centerman Olli Jokinen, drawing a long glare and some words from the obviously unhappy Flames player. The calm and cool Enroth, however, took the confrontation in stride, and seemed to ignore Jokinen, which only seemed to irk him further. The power play ended with the Flames unable to capitalize, and the score remained 1-0. The Sabres got into a little more penalty trouble late in the period, getting whistled for too many men on the ice. The dominance of the Buffalo penalty kill, however, did the job for the rest of the period, taking the Sabres into the 3rd period only having to kill off a handful of seconds.
The Sabres struck early in the 3rd period, when Nathan Gerbe struck gold off a beautiful cross-ice pass from defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani. Gerbe was all alone to the side of Karlsson, and Gragnani made no mistake with his 60 foot, corner-to-corner pass. Now down 2-0 and looking to spark his team, Flames tough guy Tim Jackman picked a fight with a very willing Cody McCormick, with Jackman earning a slight victory. The rejuvenated Flames struck quickly to cut the lead in half with 14 minutes left in regulation, when Alex Tanguay deflected a Matt Stajan pass by a surprised Enroth. This energized the Flames for a brief period of time, and Buffalo had to withstand some intermittent pressure. The Sabres thought they had taken a 3-1 lead midway through the period, when Jason Pominville shoveled a loose puck into the back of the net. There was only one problem. Referee Steve Kozari blew the play dead, when he thought Flames goalie Karlsson had frozen the puck. Kozari adamantly waived the goal off, even though replays clearly showed the puck was loose. The crowd quickly let Kozari know what they thought about the call, and even linesman Rob Martell conversed briefly with the referee to confirm that it was a non-goal . The Flames, down by one, pulled Karlsson with about one minute left in regulation, but never really had much pressure on the desperate and determined Sabres team, who improved to 7-5 on the season. The Sabres finished off the well-played game with 46 shots, making an instant star out of Flames goalie Karlsson, who kept the outplayed Flames in the game all night long. Sabres goalie Enroth finished strong with 29 saves, many in spectacular fashion, to improve to 3-0 on the season, with a startling 1.29 GAA and .958 SV%.
Buffalo leaves right after the game for a bout with surging division rival Ottawa Senators tomorrow night at Scotiabank place in Kanata, Ontario.
SABRES/FLAMES GAME NOTES:
- Winger Brad Boyes finished with a team-high 6 shots on goal.
- In Chris Butler’s return to Buffalo since the trade, the defenseman played over 19 minutes, had 2 hits and 2 blocked shots.
- In Robyn Regehr’s first game against his former team, the Sabres’ defenseman played almost 20 minutes, had 2 shots and 1 hit.
- Flames center Olli Jokinen was 15 of 21 in the faceoff circle.
- In putting 44 shots on a shell-shocked Flames team, Buffalo spread the wealth, with every skater recording a shot on goal except for just two (Andrej Sekera and rookie Corey Tropp, who was playing his first regular season NHL game).
- Speaking of Sekera, he is currently 4th in the league with a +8 rating.
- Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers led the team in ice-time with 22:39, while the Flames were led by defenseman Mark Giordano, who skated almost 27 minutes.
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Tags: Brad Boyes Buffalo Sabres Calgary Flames Cody Mccormick Corey Tropp Derek Roy Drew Stafford Jason Pominville Jhonas Enroth Lindy Ruff Marc-andre Gragnani Matt Stajan Nathan Gerbe Olli Jokinen Ryan Miller Tim Jackman Tyler Myers