February 13, 2009 was a lot more than just a game between the Buffalo Sabres and San Jose Sharks. A plane crash in Clarence Center left the entire city of Buffalo devastated. The National Hockey League questioned whether or not the game should be played.
A few of the Sabres had family and friends who lived in the area, and many people knew some of the victims who died in the plane crash of Flight 3407. It was a sad evening for the town and Buffalo honored the victims with a moment of silence before the game started.
The Sabres gave the city a measure of joy. Adam Mair and Jaroslav Spacek each scored a goal within three minutes to give them a 2-0 lead. Derek Roy’s power play goal a few minutes later had the Sabres up by three over the league leading Sharks, who were 37-7-8 and 10-1-2 against the Eastern Conference.
Patrick Marleau got San Jose on the board at the end of the first. But midway through the second Ales Kotalik scored another power play goal to put Buffalo back up by three. A minute later, the Sharks bounced right back with another goal from Marleau.
Dan Boyle scored the third goal for the Sharks with less than a minute to go in the second period. Now, the Sabres were only up by one, and fans were getting nervous.
Halfway through the third, the Sabres gave up two quick goals, giving San Jose a 5-4 lead. It was such a turnaround from all of the energy and excitement that started the game. HSBC Arena had been electric.
Call it a bit of a miracle. Call it what you want, but on the night of Friday the 13th, the Sabres didn’t give up. With four seconds remaining in the third period, Jason Pominville tipped a shot from Craig Rivet and beat Evgeni Nabokov to tie the game.
The teams would need a shootout to determine the winner of this one. Neither team scored in the first three rounds. Pominville scored in the next round and the pressure was on the Sharks. San Jose sent out Marleau, who beat Miller again.
Derek Roy then scored, and San Jose had to answer once again. Milan Michalek was unable to beat Miller and the Sabres won.
The win helped many fans take their mind off of the plane crash, at least temporarily. The Sabres did their part by playing arguably their game of the year.