Friday, March 23, 2007
Sabres 5, Leaves 4
These Leafs fans sitting below my pressbox perch were chanting "over-ra-ted" early in the 3rd period, but they could only watch in stunned disbelief as Stafford scores to give the Sabres the lead, and bedlam ensues in the arena.
In a year of electric and great moments, this game will rank right up there among the all time best Buffalo games of the regular season.
The Sabres fell behind 4-1 early in the 3rd period, the 4000 or so Leafs fans in the building were savoring the moment, drowning out the stunned Sabres faithful with chants of "Go Leafs Go", "over-ra-ted" and taunting Ryan Miller.
But then the comeback... Thomas Vanek, scoring his second of the night to bring it within two, then drew a penalty which resulted in a Buffalo power play goal to bring it to 4-3. Soon after Jason Pominville broke in on the Toronto goal, burying a wrist shot to tie the game, and before the delirious crowd could even settle down, Drew Stafford scored 20 seconds later, and just like that, Buffalo led 5-4, with 6 minutes left in the game.
Incredibly, as lethargically as the Sabres played early on, being outshot at one point 27-9, they continued to pour it on once they got the lead, and could easily have made it 7 or even 8-4. Toronto pulled the goalie, but Buffalo made enough defensive plays to thwart the Leafs, and Sundin's one timer with 13 seconds left misfired. In a blink of an eye, the game was over, and the Sabres had stolen themselves 2 points, and in doing so, recaptured the "never say die" mojo which was their hallmark in the first month of the season.
Best of all, the Sabres fans got their mojo back... the atmosphere in the arena was electric, and when the comeback was on, it was as loud as I have heard it all season. And just in time to get the fans in playoff mode.
The walk up Washington, on a balmy clear early spring Buffalo night, was great. Horns were honking, people were chanting and cheering. And devastated Leafs fans out on the street could only ponder their team and their crumbling season.
The rematch is on at the ACC in Toronto tomorrow at 7... a Sabres win will, in my opinion, put the final dagger in Toronto's heart for the 2006-07 season. How sweet would that be!