In what appeared to be another late rally by the Buffalo Sabres, Colorado Avalanche forward Matt Hendricks quieted the capacity crowd at the HSBC Arena, beating Patrick Lalime in the 11th round of a sudden-death shootout to earn a 4-3 victory Saturday night.
Hendricks faked a wrist shot in the slot to freeze Lalime, and then buried a backhand in the open cage.
“Well, it’s a lot of fun,” said Lalime of the shootout finish. “It would have been a lot more fun if we would have won.”
The Sabres’ backup made 27 saves in the loss, and remains one win shy of his 200th career NHL victory.
“He played really well,” said Sabres forward Clarke MacArthur. “It’s too bad we couldn’t get him one in the shootout. He made a lot of great saves and he battled hard tonight.”
Tim Connolly, Thomas Vanek, and Jochen Hecht scored for Buffalo in the shootout, but goaltender Craig Anderson stymied the rest of the Sabres’ shooters—including MacArthur—ending Buffalo’s win streak at six games.
After a poor start in the game’s first 40, Buffalo roared back with two goals in the third to tie the contest at three apiece. Vanek banked in his own rebound following a nifty pass from line mate Drew Stafford halfway through the third to narrow the deficit to one goal. Hecht then evened the score when his screened wrist shot from the point found the mesh.
“Obviously, we came out better in the second and third and we worked hard,” MacArthur said. “It’s just disappointing to have that slow start. We were all over them in the third. Anderson played really well to keep him in at the end.”
Colorado was able to get on the board first when Buffalo defenseman Henrik Tallinder coughed up the puck inside his own end. Consequently, Matt Duchene received a one-timed pass from Hendricks to beat a sprawling Lalime.
Less than six minutes later it was Duchene again who buried a loose puck in a mad scramble around the Buffalo goal. Duchene, NHL’s rookie of the month for December, now has seven goals and 15 points since Dec. 2.
“Our execution early in the game wasn’t very good again,” said Sabres coach Lindy Ruff. “We had some guys missing passes, we had passes that any team, any player at this level should be able to make and should be able to catch. And when you miss those passes early you just give up possession. And I don’t think our possession was very good.”
The Sabres finally got on the board late in the second frame when center Paul Gaustad found Stafford in the slot for a one-timer past Anderson on the power play. Colorado, however, would answer back just 62 seconds later when Brandon Yip ripped a quick wrist shot past the stick side of Lalime to regain the two-goal lead.
In the third period, Ruff switched to two five-man units, and eventually it paid off.
“I think sometimes the five-man units, which has been used in the past—I think Detroit was the most famous team for using them—if you can breed a little familiarity, you can do a lot of cheating, you can do a lot rotating,” Ruff said.
In the late goings, Ruff paired Tallinder and Tyler Myers with the Connolly, Hecht, and Jason Pominville line, which was responsible for the game-tying goal. Hecht’s shot from the point was ironically screened by Tallinder in front to beat Anderson high glove side.
“I thought in the third period we generated some pretty good momentum,” Ruff said. “Once we scored the goal we got them on their heels and looked like we had a shot at coming back.”
The Sabres will get a rest Sunday, he said, before three-straight days of practice prior to the team’s annual West Coast road trip.
Buffalo will travel to Atlanta to play the Thrashers on Thursday and to Long Island to play the Islanders on Saturday before five-straight against Phoenix, Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose, and Vancouver.
"I think it’s good to get some rest and practice," Lalime said. "I think even at this time of the year you want to make sure you’re sharp—big road trip coming up. We’re going to recharge the battery and make sure we’re ready for the big road trip.”
This article is featured in The Record Student Press at Buffalo State College.