Sabres Find A Way To Win
Friday, 10.20.2006 / 12:00 AM / News
In a game that could of gone either way depending on the bounces, Buffalo walked away with their seventh straight victory with a nail-biting 5-4 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes in HSBC Arena.
Buffalo will attempt to tie the franchise record for most consecutive wins to open the season when the team travels to Boston on Saturday night (7 p.m., MSG, WGR 550-AM).
"The game was open for the taking by either team," said head coach Lindy Ruff. "It was just a battle of wills."
It didn't hurt that the hockey gods smiled on the Sabres when the game mattered the most.
With the score tied at 3-3 and less than seven minutes to play, Teppo Numminen's dump in on the power play took an unexpected skip off the glass in the corner. The awkward rebound left Carolina's penalty kill out of position and opened the door for Thomas Vanek to give the Sabres the lead.
Two minutes later, Jaroslav Spacek was credited with the game winner after his shot from the left point caromed off defenseman Tim Gleason past goaltender Cam Ward to put Buffalo up 5-3.
Mike Commodore added some drama to the final moments of play when his shorthanded goal brought Carolina within striking distance with less than two minutes to play but Sabres held off a last minute onslaught.
"There were some funny goals out there tonight," Ruff said. "There were deflections by both teams that went in."
Two of the four goals allowed by goaltender Ryan Miller where either redirected or banked off his body from strange angles. Eric Staal's tally in the second period deflected off Henrik Tallinder's skate and Eric Belanger netted a goal off Miller's back. The netminder finished with 16 saves en route to his sixth victory of the season.
"Sometimes those things happen during games," said Spacek. "We didn't get the bounces in the first half of the game, but we hung around and a couple of bounces went our way. The game really turned around quickly after that."
"That was a good team and they gave us all we could handle," said Ruff.
Maxim Afinogenov led Buffalo with a goal and two assists, while Vanek and Jason Pominville finished with a goal and an assist each. Spacek and Dmitri Kalinin rounded out the scoring with a goal each.
"We're playing with a lot of confidence right now," said Pominville. "We haven't had the lead in every game but we've still found a way to win."
Off a Toni Lydman turnover in Buffalo's zone, Scott Walker opened the scoring for Carolina with a blistering slapshot over Miller's left shoulder for the 1-0 lead at the 5:28 mark of the first.
Still in the first, Pominville tied the game off an across-ice pass from Jochen Hecht on a two-on-one rush when he thundered a one-timer over Ward's right pad for his third goal of the season at 9:14.
On a Carolina five-on-three power play, Staal's pass to the left post deflected off Tallinder's skate and slipped between Miller's pads to give Carolina the 2-1 lead at 8:37 of the middle frame.
Buffalo beat Ward twice in the span of 58 seconds to take their first lead of the game.
Off a turnover in the neutral zone created by Paul Gaustad, Kalinin fires a slapshot from the left face-off dot into the top-corner of the net to tie the game while shorthanded at 12:33.
Afinogenov gave Buffalo the lead after some nifty passing by Brian Campbell and Derek Roy. Stationed in the slot, Campbell one-timed Roy's across-ice pass from the left boards to Afinogenov at the goal line for his fourth goal from a nearly impossible angle at 13:31 of the second.
Another bad bounce tied the game as Belanger's wristshot deflected off Miller's back for his third goal of the season with just under five minutes remaining in the period.
Vanek gave Buffalo the 4-3 lead after receiving a feed from Afingenov in the slot and beating Ward five hole at 13:26 of the third.
Spacek gave the Sabres a two-goal lead when his slapshot from the left point deflected off defenseman Tim Gleason at 15:24.