Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com
What do you get when Buffalo's Evander "Apollo" Kane scores a goal and has three fights, Sam "The Forgotten One" Reinhart pots two goals and Mike Weber nets his first of the season?
Nothing when the opponent, in this case the Florida Panthers, score seven (including an empty-netter.)
The fact that they gave up four goals to the Panthers in the first 20:22 of the game, including a goal with :15 seconds left in the first and another one :22 seconds into the second, in and of itself is pretty troublesome. That they lost 7-4 in front of the home crowd makes it worse and when you consider that the Sabres gave up a total of 12 goals in the last two games against the Cats--both on First Niagara Center Ice--it's embarrassing.
"Embarrassing" is a word that Sabres assistant captain Ryan O'Reilly has used more than a few times this season either when talking about the team's performance or his own and although that word wasn't used post-game, the way they came out at home in the first period was certainly was embarrassing.
For some reason, it's been a trend for the Buffalo Sabres to come out flat on home ice. It's a maddening trend that dates back to when Lindy Ruff was behind the bench. Back in "the core days" it something that could be attributed to a team living off the fat of the land as most of those players were paid rather handsomely and had long-term contracts in hand. But as the team went through it's rebuild, which included "the hardest working team in hockey, part deux" under head coach Ted Nolan, and transitioned to head coach Dan Bylsma, it's still a problem for some reason.
Buffalo has the third-worst home record in the league at 9-16-3 with those 16 losses by-far being worst in the league. In those 28 games they've been shut out 3 times while in 10 other games they scored only one goal. That's nearly half of those home games scoring one goal or less. In all they've been outscored by a 76-56 margin allowed seven goals or more twice and have lost by three or more goals six times.
That's something that's not very fun for the home crowd.
Sabres analyst Rob Ray who's at ice level between the benches pointed out yesterday that the F'N Center crowd came to it's feet three times last night--three times for Sabres goals and three times for Kane's fights.
Not sure what we can call it, perhaps an Eddie Shore hat trick in honor of the Boston Bruins defenseman who got into an NHL record five fights in one game against the Montreal Maroons on November 23, 1929 (via greatest hockey legends.com.) It's a record that will not be broken as players these days get a game misconduct for three major penalties in a game.
Kane has always been a highly-skilled player who will forever be known for knocking noted pest Matt Cooke in a game vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins when he was a member of the Atlanta Thrashers. According to hockeyfights.com, Kane had been involved in eight fights between that bout on April 10, 2010 and his three fights last night.
Last night with his team down 4-1 and less than a minute after teammate Sam Reinhart put them on the board, Kane went after 6'4" 201 lb. Florida defenseman Alex Petrovic with a couple of body checks in the Panthers zone. The two went at it with Kane having the slight edge in a rather mild bout, the crowd got fired up and less than three minutes later Reinhart scored his second of the game to make the score 4-2.
With Buffalo down 5-2 and the whistle blown and the Sabres about to go on the powerplay again, Kane and Petrovic went for Round-2. Kane once again won on a decision in a better but still rather weak bout.
Round-3 came with just under eight minutes left in the game and occurred at center ice with Buffalo down 6-3 and the crowd on it's feet. Kane belted Petrovic with a hard right that cut the Panther open then got in a couple more before he left the ice to high-fives from his teammates and the fans.
He was asked after the game whether there was something between him and Petrovic. "He's a big boy," replied Kane to the gathered media, "we were down and I tried to get the crowd back into it a little bit. Kind of set the tone moving forward and it just seemed to be a bit of a battle throughout the game."
Was he surprised Petrovic came back at him for a third time? "Ummm...no. I guess," was his reply. "Like I said, he's a big boy. The first few didn't go his way, probably. You know you get three fights and you get kicked out of the game so we didn't have an opportunity for a fourth."
Petrovic may have lost those battles but his team won the war and he got himself not only the Eddie Shore hattrick, but the Gordie Howe hattrick as well scoring a goal and adding an assist to those fights with Kane. He was laughing at it all post-game. "It's a lot of fun," he told the Florida media of his battles. "I didn't think I was going to come in and have three fights but that's just how it goes."
Kane was an assist away from his own Gordie Howe hat trick as he scored his 13th of the year on his off-wing from a bad angle.
Reinhart's two goals were his 15th and 16th of the season. Had anyone said that he'd be in the top-five in rookie goal-scoring with more goals than assists, they'd have been heckled out of the building. The 20 yr. old in his first full NHL season was touted as a set-up man out of junior but because of his smarts and stick work seems to have found a home in front of the net on the powerplay. He's also found his shot as hours upon hours of after practice work has given him the confidence to unleash it.
As for Mike Weber, the tough, stay-at-home defenseman scored his first goal of the season on a seeing eye shot from a bad angle that probably caught goalie Roberto Luongo by surprise. It was the fourth tally by the Sabres and pulled them to within 6-4 with just over two minutes to play. An empty-netter gave us the final score.
With Tyler Ennis out since the first of the year and two other top-nine forwards in Zemgus Girgensons and Johan Larsson joining him, the Sabres forward ranks were stretched thin. Daniel Catenacci was playing in his second game and defenseman Jake McCabe moved to forward to fill out the lines.
It's curious that the Sabres haven't freed up a roster spot by placing Ennis on Injured Reserve. Being so close to Rochester means they can have an Amerks player in Buffalo within an hour. But that was not the case and Bylsma was forced to use what he had. There were weird line combinations all night including rookie phenom Jack Eichel being flanked by McCabe and fourth-liner Nic Deslauriers.
As the Sabres begin to build the team and move forward, we saw last night just how thin they are at forward when playing a strong team like Florida. Their defense was exposed as well. That group has been playing well above their heads all season, but with workhorse Rasmus Ristolainen hitting a wall and others like Mark Pysyk showing his youth, goalies Robin Lehner and Chad Johnson need to be near-perfect, something neither is capable of at this time.
Today's a travel day as the team heads to Philadelphia to take on the Flyers for the third and final time this season. Buffalo won the first two contests.