Well, not even Terry Pegula’s money can buy an 82-0 season. In their first regular season game in North America, the Sabres lost their first game of the 2011-12 season as they fell by a score of 4-3 to the visiting Carolina Hurricanes. It probably wasn’t the way they wanted to christen the newly renamed F’N Center in Buffalo. The silver-lining for Sabres fans is simple: they still can go 81-1.
Things got off to a good start for the Sabres as they managed to net a pair of goals in the first 10 minutes of the game. The problem was they gave up a pair of shorthanded goals to Brandon Sutter and Tim Brent to fall behind for the better part of the game. Drew Stafford crashed the net and knotted the score at 3-3; only to watch Thomas Vanek take an ill-timed tripping penalty with exactly two minutes left in the game. It didn’t take much time for Jeff Skinner to remind everyone why he’s the defending rookie of the year. The 19-year-old buried a one-timer behind Ryan Miller; and simultaneously buried the Sabres for the night.
Going into Friday’s game, the Canes had given up six more goals than they had scored on the young season—only the Senators were worse. But all’s well that ends well. All that matters are wins and the win improves the Canes record to 2-2-1 on the season. Not a bad way for Carolina coach Paul Maurice to celebrate his 900th game behind the bench.
Special teams really let down the Sabres on Friday night. Aside from Carolina’s game-winner on the power play with 1:24 left in the game, the shorthanded goals completely changed the complexion of the game. Instead of leading after the first period, Brandon Sutter’s unassisted short-hander with 12 seconds left in the period knotted the score and gave the Canes some much needed momentum.
Things don’t get any easier for the Sabres. Buffalo will look to bounce back tomorrow night against the Penguins in Pittsburgh. Tomorrow night’s game will be the first of a four-game road trip for the team that has already racked-up some serious frequent flier miles.
The Canes continue their road trip with a game against the Bruins in Boston on Tuesday. There’s nothing like taking on the two best teams in the Northeast Division on the same trip. Obviously, they’ll try to take the momentum from tonight’s last-minute victory into their date with the defending Stanley Cup champs.
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