On a day where many Western New York Residents mourned the loss of the 50 individuals that lost their lives in the horrific plane crash in Clarence Center, the Buffalo Sabres were a welcome distraction.
The team decided to decline an offer from the NHL Deputy Commissioner to postpone Friday night's game against the powerful San Jose Sharks, instead believing that sport would help area residents during a period of grief. And this decision proved to be wise.
Despite squandering a 3-0 lead that the Sabres established an onslaught in the first ten minutes of the first period, Sabre fans were given a dramatic conclusion. After falling behind 5-4 on the strength of "Jumbo" Joe Thornton's four assists, as well as porous defensive zone coverage, the Sabres were rescued by players that had been absent of late and a rookie who showed flashes of what Sabre fan hope to see in the future.
Derek Roy has been a turnover machine of late, this extended well into this contest. Roy's neutral zone giveaways and lost battles in the corners have become commonplace this season. Jason Pominville is another player who has been uncharacteristically silent this year and has been criticized by Sabre fans for lack of passionate play. But on Friday night, when another pointless effort seem inevitable, these two players were able to bear down and deliver two points.
Pominville's deflection with 3.9 seconds left capped a furious Buffalo comeback effort that began with about 4 minutes left when Sabres' rookie Nathan Gerbe won two physical battles in the offensive zone against the enormous Thornton.
It was an inspired effort that seemed to spur the team from that point. In the shootout it was Roy and Pominville delivering the win, in a five round battle of top tier goaltenders.
On a somber night in Western New York there was reason to stand and cheer.
Craig Rivets notched three assists against his former club; Ales Kotalik scored a PP goal for the second consecutive game; Andre Sekera return after missing 12 games; Derek Roy notched his 100th career goal and Stafford recorded his 100th point on the same play.