Sabres Rally To Top Canadiens In Shootout
After losing to the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Sabres began their next season with a come from behind win, defeating Montreal in a shootout. After surprising many fans with a successful season after the lockout, there was a lot of anticipation and excitement for the 2006-2007 campaign. Buffalo was poised to make a Stanley Cup run, and they proved it right out of the gate.
The Sabres hosted Montreal in their home opener back on October 6th, 2006. In front of a sold out crowd at HSBC arena, Buffalo was prepared to take on the Canadiens, who were a very good team at the time.
Montreal’s Michael Ryder had Montreal on the board first with a power play goal seven minutes into the game. Then, to begin the second, the Canadiens added another goal. This time it was Christopher Higgins, and Montreal had a 2-0 lead and plans to spoil Buffalo’s home opener.
The Buffalo Sabres had other plans. Jiri Novotny scored Buffalo’s first goal, cutting the Montreal lead in half. The Sabres had a huge opportunity to tie the game due to a four minute penalty to Saku Koivu, but they were unable to cash in.
Koivu made up for his high sticking penalty with the third Montreal goal late in the second period. The Canadiens were up by two heading into the third, but Buffalo showed up ready to play. Less than a minute into the third, Jason Pominville had the Sabres back within two.
Then, about halfway through the third period, Buffalo ran into their biggest challenge. The Sabres received three penalties within a three minute span. Montreal would score on their first power play opportunity, which was another goal from Koivu.
Despite a goal that took a lot out of the crowd and the team, Buffalo kept battling and were rewarded. The penalties that the Sabres received were all questionable, and the referees seemed to be favoring the Canadiens.
After killing off the remaining penalties, the Sabres were back in the game. Daniel Briere accepted a breakaway pass from Dmitri Kalinin and shot it past Cristobal Huet for the goal. In the dying second of the third, with Ryan Miller pulled, Buffalo put the pressure on. With just 15 seconds to go, Maxim Afinogenov tied the game at four and HSBC Arena erupted.
These two teams would need a shootout to determine the winner. Both Michael Ryder and Daniel Briere were unable to score on their shootout attempts. Afinogenov was selected to shoot second for Buffalo, and he scored again, giving Buffalo a lead in the shootout.
Miller came up big with another save on Montreal’s Alexei Kovalev, and it was up to Thomas Vanek to seal the deal. Vanek came down, took a shot, and won the game for the Sabres. Buffalo completed their comeback, and set the tone for what the rest of their season would be like.
Final score: Buffalo 5, Montreal 4 (shootout)