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Solid Sabres effort ends in disappointment

All the buzz, pageantry and excitement of opening day at HSBC Arena ended in a thud, as the Buffalo Sabres wasted a solid effort against the Montreal Canadiens. Brian Gionta’s overtime goal, coming at 2:32 of the extra frame, gaves the Habs the 2-1 victory.

The front office called this a sellout crowd of 18,690, although a couple rows of empty blue seats in each of the upper corners suggested otherwise, and fans here were pumped for another season of Sabres hockey. The team came out of the zamboni entrance amidst lights and fogs machines, and joined in a circle at center ice to give the fans a hearty salute. Each player was introduced, with the loudest cheers saved for Buffalo native Tim Kennedy, who earned a roster spot with a strong training camp effort.

Buffalo came out of the gate smoking, with strong chippy play. Pesky Patrick Kaleta was a physical force all night, and goaded Glen Metropolit into a penalty early. Buffalo then struck almost immediately, with Tim Connolly giving the Sabres a 1-0 lead.

From there the frustration built, and the Canadiens took over the flow of the game in the second period, scoring mid way through the frame on a puck that went in as the net came off its moorings. The replay clearly showed that the puck was in the back of the net before it came loose.

Buffalo retook control of the game in the third period, outshooting Montreal 11-1, but Carey Price was spectacular in net, and stopped Jason Pominville stone cold in the last minute of regulation, after Pominville got a perfect feed pass from Tim Kennedy right at the blue line.

From there it went to overtime, and Buffalo had a couple chances to win the game, until Montreal took the puck into the offensive zone and shot around the lanes onto the boards behind the net. The puck caromed perfectly towards a waiting Brian Gionta, who flipped the puck past Ryan Miller and ended the game.

Head coach Lindy Ruff didn’t seem too upset about his team’s loss. “Our guys did a lot of things right we just didn’t score. You’ve got to give them (the Canadiens) credit.”

Ruff was especially pleased with the play of his two rookies, defenseman Tyler Myers and winger Tim Kennedy. On Myers: “He was real good. He made good decisions. He made good plays.” Ruff decided early on he was going to let his youngsters play. “If you have young players you’ve got to play them. They both had a good feel for the game.”

Tim Kennedy was glad to get onto the ice, and said he shook off the butterflies early on. “I already went through that when I played here last year, so that was all behind me. Plus I only had like six friends and family members here tonight so I could concentrate on my game.”

Was Kennedy surprised to see so much ice time in the season debut? “Not really I expected to get a lot of playing time tonight” Kennedy replied. Then he added, “Well maybe I was a bit surprised.”

Jason Pominville added that the scrappy physical effort his teammates put out there will be something the fans will see more of this season. “We have to battle in the corners. Behind the nets. We’re not going to give an inch and tonight it showed. This will definitely pay dividends in the long run.”

For whatever the schedule makers were thinking, the Sabres are now off until Thursday, when they host Wayne Gretzky’s Phoenix Coyotes, and by that time they should have 16 games in hand or so on their competition. Game time is 7:05PM and it is one of the few value priced games on the schedule.


-Why in the world does anyone boo anthem singer Doug Allen? He is one of the most solid and talented performers anywhere in the NHL (with no disrespect towards The Constable in Ottawa). Anyone who boos please post a reply here and explain why in a way that makes sense.

-A couple ugly incidents outside the arena after the game made for some unpleasantness. Security had a hard time clearing the pavilion after a large group of revelers dressed in red blue and white gathered and refused to leave, raising the decibel level with their chants of “Ole Ole Ole”. On the way to our traditional postgame watering hole (Washington Square Lounge) we observed a couple of heated conversations along the curbs which were bordering on fisticuffs. C’mon folks, it’s only a game! As NFL coach Sam Wyche once said… “This isn’t Cleveland!”