Less than a day after a Continental airline commuter jet crashed into a suburban neighborhood outside of Buffalo and took 49 lives, the Sabers played host to the Sharks.
When asked before the game how to go about hockey after such an incident, former Sabre and current Shark forward Mike Grier said, "Hopefully we can put on a good show for these fans, so they can escape for a bit here," and that is exactly what the Sharks and Sabers did.
The Sabres took control of the game early on with a constant fore-check in the San Jose zone and at 6:40 of the first period, scored the game's first goal.
After regaining the puck deep inside the San Jose zone, Sabres forward, Ales Kotalik, fed the puck back to the point to former Shark and current Sabre Captain, Craig Rivet, who snapped a quick wrist shot towards the net that was deflected past Nabokov by Adam Mair for the 1-0 advantage.
A little more than two minutes later, the Sabres power-play converted to make it 2-0.
With Sharks' defensemen, Rob Blake, in the box for holding, Sabres defenseman, Jaroslav Spacek, ripped a blast from the point that found its way through the five-hole of Nabokov at 8:53.
Only four minutes later Buffalo would go back on the power-play when Joe Pavelski was called for hooking.
This time Derek Roy converted on the man advantage
After Joe Thornton turned the puck over in the neutral zone, Drew Stafford picked up the puck and fed Roy on the outside that gained space into the zone and fired a wrist shot that beat Nabokov stick side for the 3-0 lead.
However, after Roy's goal the Sharks started to dig in.
With Tempo Numminen in the box for hooking, the Sharks got on the board.
After Thornton won the face-off back to Marc-Eduard Vlasic at the point, Vlasic fed Marleau by the boards and the Sharks captain quickly snapped one to the net that beat Sabres goal-tender, Ryan Miller, in the top-shelf on the near side with Thornton setting up a perfect screen.
San Jose would go into the second period with some momentum, but it didn't last long.
When the Sabers went back on the power-play at 8:23 of the second, they converted once again, making their power-play 3-3 on the night.
After winning the face-off back to their captain, Craig Rivet, the Sabres' defenseman fed, Ales Kotalik, across the blue-line for a perfect one-timer that Kotalik ripped past Nabokov to restore the three-goal lead.
The Sharks would once again were faced wit a big hole to climb out of, but this time they would turn things completely around.
Less than two minutes after Kotalik's goal restored the three goal advantage, the Sharks' captain would get cut it back to two with his second goal on the night.
When Alexei Semenov's shot caromed off the boards behind the net and slid out to the side of the goal, Joe Thornton skated hard to the puck and chipped it past the oncoming defender and into the crease where Marleau roofed it up over Miller's shoulder from right in close.
For the rest of the middle period, San Jose seemed to be carrying the play but the score remained a 4-2 Buffalo advantage, until late in the period when Dan Boyle scored one of the prettiest goals all season.
Picking up speed through the neutral zone, Boyle received a head-man pass from Thornton and attacked the Buffalo defense.
Boyle made a nice move around the defender, slipping the puck behind him and then went around him on the outside, cut in Miller and slipped a shot inside the far post to bring the Sharks within a goal at 4-3.
In the final period of play, San Jose would build on its momentum and eventually take a 5-4 lead.
Down by a goal into the third, the Sharks battled strong in the first five minutes and got a beneficial high sticking call on Buffalo’s, Rivet.
It was actually Thornton's teammate, Devin Setoguchi's stick who caught the Sharks center in the mouth, but San Jose went on the power-play.
On the ensuing face-off, Thornton got control of the puck behind the net and basically let the pinching Boyle take the puck right of his stick and curl up the boards.
Wide open in the slot was Setoguchi and Boyle fed him perfectly and the Sharks winger slammed it home past Miller to tie the score at four.
At this point the Sharks had grabbed all of the momentum and at 10:14, Sharks center Joe Pavelski made a great individual play along the boards and tip toed around two defenders before picking up the puck in the slot and sniping Ryan Miller top corner short side on one of the prettiest shots this season.
San Jose had its first lead of the game, up 5-4 mid way through the final period.
The score remained in the Sharks favor for the majority of the rest of regulation and San Jose seemed to dictate the play, however in the last minute of regulation, Buffalo pulled Miller for an extra attacker.
After a couple of clears by San Jose, their fans represented in the Buffalo stands and were on their feet, but they were a tad premature.
As Buffalo dumped the puck in deep one more time and a scrum in the corner bounced out to Craig Rivet at the point.
With less than four seconds left, Rivet ripped a slap shot that was re-directed past Nabokov by Buffalo forward Jason Pominville to tie the score.
The late tying goal put Buffalo fans on their feet and Sharks fans in their seats as the game was going into overtime.
In the extra session both teams seemed rather tight but both got a few quality chances, one of which was Craig Rivet walking in on former teammate Evgeni Nabokov all alone and Nabokov stoned Rivet's attempt at the top-corner with a nice glove save.
Overtime would come to an end and the game would now go into a shootout.
Buffalo would shoot first and Ales Kotalik would take a few strides, stick handle back and forth before trying to beat Nabokov low on the glove-side with a quick shot, but the Sharks goalie snatched in his mitt before it crossed the goal-line.
Dan Boyle would shoot first for the Sharks and the defenseman tried a little stutter move on Miller but one to many stick handle moves got Boyle off balance and Miller was able stop the wrist shot.
Next up for the Sabers was Drew Stafford who came in curling around from both sides of the dry scrape before finally making a strong move forehand-backhand-forehand, but Nabokov stretched the pad across to the post to make the save.
Next up for San Jose was their sniper specialist in the shootout Joe Pavelski, but Miller knew who he was facing and came way out of his net to cut down the angle, and was able to stop Pavelski's shot with his left shoulder.
Tim Connolly would shoot next for the Sabers and a similar move to that of Stafford's may have nicked off Nabokov before sailing wide.
The potential final shot was on the stick of Sharks' forward Devin Setoguchi who could win the game with a goal but his attempt at going 5-hole was shut down by Miller.
The shootout would now go to 1 v. 1.
First up for Buffalo was Jason Pominville who got credit for the game tying goal.
Pominville came in swiftly and got Nabokov glove-side top-corner to put Buffalo in front, 1-0, in the shootout.
The Sharks needed a goal to keep the game going and their captain delivered.
Marleau skated in from the right side, acted as if he was going to shoot fore-hand and then made a nice strong move to his back-hand and lifted a shot past Miller and into the net to tie the score.
There would now be a fifth round.
This time it was Derek Roy for the Sabres who skated in with speed and made a similar move to Marleau, but Roy's move was a prettier version that juked Nabokov out of his pads and Roy had the whole net to put home the back-hander and he did just that, giving his team the lead.
Next up for the Sharks was Milan Michalek.
The Czech forward skated in on Miller and tried to make the same move as Marleau but this time Miller was up to the task and made the save to clinch the Sabres victory.
All in all, the Sharks proved they could comeback from down by three twice, but questionable play by Nabokov in the first couple periods led to some not so stellar Buffalo goals.
A much needed victory as Buffalo fights for one of the last remaining play-off spots in the eastern conference.
The No. 1 star of this game was their captain and former Shark, Craig Rivet, who had three assists in the win.
Next up for Sharks: Sunday vs. New Jersey.
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