Saturday night hockey is back! Well, sort of.
The Buffalo Sabres took to the ice tonight for a preseason match-up against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Sabres, looking to go 4-0-0 on the preseason, recently assigned six more players down to Rochester; and with more cuts coming, tonight’s game means so much more for some.
Jhonas Enroth had the start in between the pipes for his second time this preseason, facing James Reimer, and what a show they put on.
The first period was uneventful on the scoring side, with both James Reimer and Enroth very busy to start for both teams. Enroth faced 10 shots from the Toronto offense while Reimer forced away 17 Buffalo shots.
Gloves were off twice in the opening period, with Cody McCormick and David Broll throwing punches at 13:06 of the first. About two minutes later, Steve Ott stepped up and dropped the gloves against Carter Ashton.
At the end of the first, the scoreboard read 0-0.
The start of the second was much like the first, shot for shot turning into save for save.
Enter, Mark Pysyk.
On an individual drive to the net, Pysyk took the puck from the Buffalo side, crossed into neutral territory. With pressure coming, Pysyk handed the puck off to Drew Stafford who crossed the blue line, handed the puck back to Pysyk. Skating through part of the Toronto defense, Pysyk released a wrister about 15 feet out right over the shoulder of Reimer.
Two minutes stood between Buffalo’s next goal. Marcus Foligno, on a two-on-one, took a pass from Tyler Ennis. Reaching around Paul Ranger, Foligno slid what looked like a return pass to Ennis. Reimer, trying to cut off the pass, opened the five hole and the puck slid off of Reimer and into the net.
At the buzzer, Buffalo led with the infamous two goal lead, 2-0.
Being a third period team can be one of the best things in hockey. That can be said about the Buffalo Sabres this season.
Toronto, adding a ton of pressure throughout, finally broke onto the scoreboard, on the wrist shot from Jamie Devane.
With 6 minutes remaining in the final period, it was do or die for the Maple Leafs.
At the 15:23 mark of the third, Jay McClement wristed a shot from the slot and slid the puck through Enroth’s legs, moments before Carter Ashton ran through the net. Ashton was credited with the assist.
But Patrick Kaleta wasn’t going out without a bang. After going after the Maple Leaf captain Dion Phaneuf, Troy Bodie decided that enough was enough and rushed Kaleta. Throwing a jab at Kaleta, the gloves were off! Both connected a few shots, with Kaleta adding a few more, and finally they wrestled to the ground, where Kaleta found a comfortable seat in the penalty box.
Folks, we are going to OVERTIME!
Through an exciting OT, few shots were registered, and all were turned away. At this point in the game, it seemed to be an all out goalie clinic.
Neck and neck, Reimer and Enroth carried their teams into a shootout. And what a showing they gave the fans.
Fifteen rounds, thirty shooters, one goal.
Both Reimer and Enroth went head to head, and none disappointed.
But, the game had to end at some point, and that came on the stick of Jay McClement, again. Skating one on one with Enroth, McClement released a small wristshot which dribbled through the five-hole of a sliding Enroth. Striking a knife in a hard fought game, the fat-lady had sung and the fans began to leave, craving more.
Taking away from this game, I see a few things, Toronto has the makings of a very solid contending team, and Buffalo has their work cut out for them if they have to start cutting players more and more.
All I can say for Rolston and company is……Godspeed.
The Sabres return to the road as they head north to face the Maple Lwafs again tomorrow night.