Buffalo, NY - Who ever first stated the phrase “Patience is a virtue” must have watched something like the game we saw tonight at the First Niagara Center.
In a game that would make even the worst of insomniacs happy, the Sabres managed to beat the Florida Panthers 2-1 in overtime thanks to Jason Pominville’s breakway goal 2:19 into the extra session. It was just their second win in their last eight games played on home ice.
Jason Garrison scored on a five-on-three powerplay in the second period for the Panthers only goal of the game.
Ryan Miller had another strong outing since returning from his concussion
“It probably wasn’t the most exciting game for the fans,” said Ryan Miller who made 22 saves for his first win at home since November 8th against Winnipeg. “Glad we stayed with our system though…it’s been a tough month here.”
“It’s been our biggest nemesis,” said Lindy Ruff on the team playing well at home. “You go back to game one against Carolina, shorthanded breakaway – shorthanded breakaway – odd-numbered rush.”
Buffalo got on the board first when Derek Roy went on a breakaway late in the opening period, and was able to bury the puck past Florida goaltender Scott Clemmenson. However, the play that happened in the Sabres’ zone was the key moment of the sequence that lead to Roy’s 7th goal of the season.
Rookie Brayden McNabb, whose stick had just snapped like a twig, was able to fight the puck away from the Florida forwards to kick it not once, but twice out to Tyler Ennis who was then able to start the break out.
“I was lucky enough to take the body and get a good kick on it,” said the 20-year old McNabb. Ruff couldn’t hold back how he felt about the play of his young defenseman. “I really think he’s getting better every game,” said Ruff. “He might have been our best player. A great play on the first goal, a slide breaking up the two on one; I thought he played sound defensively.”
McNabb wasn’t the only call-up to make a crucial play that led to a goal. Paul Szczechura made a beauty of a pass to Pominville that sprung the Sabres captain free for his game-winning breakaway goal.
“It’s fun to see him play,” said Pominville of Szczechura. “He’s good with the puck, patient with the puck.” Szczechura now has three points, all assists, in three games played with the Sabres this season.
Aside from the brief moments of entertainment from the teams on the ice, the game was an utter snore-fest, and just not very well played in general. Even Lindy Ruff could not argue that point.
“We made a mistake, they went down. They made a mistake, we went down and we missed it. It was a comedy of bad passes that allowed them to go one way then allowed us to go the other way.”
The biggest “comedy” of the night was the Sabres powerplay. Buffalo had five chances and tallied eight shots, but managed no goals and only one high quality scoring chance during their time with the man advantage. At times it was down right putrid to watch. Blocked shots, wide shots, missed passes, losing the puck along the blue line, you name it, the Sabres managed to do it when it comes to doing bad things on the powerplay.
Buffalo also managed just three shots on goal over the final 36-minutes of regulation time; they had four in the short overtime session.
To make matters worse, two more Sabres left the game due to injuries. Corey Tropp took a hit to the head in the first period from Florida defenseman Dmitry Kulikov and did not return, and Jochen Hecht blocked a shot in the leg and left during the third period. Ruff said afterward that he’s not sure how long either of them will be out of action for.