“Terry-Terry-Terry!” was the chant being uttered by the sold-out crowd at HSBC Arena prior to the contest. The same man that Sabres fans were cheering for, Terry Pegula, then stepped out onto the ice with his two sons, and the crowd hollered even louder.
An appearance by the French Connection- Gilbert Perreault, Rene Robert and Rick Martin- also thrilled the Sabres faithful.
As far as the actual hockey game went, the first seven minutes or so gave nothing for those in attendance to go wild over. Tyler Myers got fans standing and screaming once again at 7:13 with his patented slapshot from the goalie’s left side.
Just as he scored the overtime goal in Florida almost two weeks ago, the six-foot-eight defensemen barreled into the opposition’s zone and launched a shot past Atlanta’s Andrej Pavelec to put the Sabres up 1-0.
The goal clearly energized the Sabres, who proceeded to create numerous scoring opportunities for themselves throughout the rest of the period. They nearly went up 2-0 after a sheer melee in front of Pavelec, but just before the puck went into the net, it was knocked off its hinges by the battling players.
Atlanta found new life on a successful Power Play at 5:31 of the second period. Andrew Ladd was all alone when he intercepted the puck after it bounced past Ryan Miller. The Sabres goaltender sprawled in desperate fashion, but the Thrasher’s captain simply threw it over Miller and tied the game 1-1.
That goal gave Atlanta a boost which, for most the period, Buffalo was helpless to match. The Thrashers became the team that was generating chances minute, and would end the period with a whopping 18 shots on net. Meanwhile, the Sabres wilted; they whiffed on their third Power Play opportunity of the game, and they weren’t even fired up by a pair of fights (Paul Gaustad vs. Mark Stuart, Cody McCormick vs. Eric Boulton).
Gaustad clearly was, however. With only 1:08 left in the period, The Goose took a pass from Nathan Gerbe on a 2-1 rush, and fired it on net. He picked up a huge rebound from Pavelec and stabbed it into the net for his 9th goal of the year. Just 30 seconds later, Jason Pominville scored his 14th of the year to put Buffalo up 3-1. Myers unleashed a rocket of a slapshot which most players ducked in the face of, and Pominville managed to corral the rebound and throw it above Pavelec.
Just like that, the Sabres had all the momentum once again, and it clearly carried into the third period. Early on, the Sabres played about in the Atlanta zone for a considerable amount of time. Jochen Hecht eventually found the puck and fired it across Pavelec’s back, just missing the net. But the goaltender lost sight of the puck, and Tyler Ennis got to it before anyone else to flip it into the top right corner.
Ennis’s 13th goal on the season appeared to be the last blow that Atlanta could withstand. Even though the Thrashers ended up out-shooting Buffalo 13-11 in the final period, they could never get another puck past Miller, who finished the contest with an outstanding 40 saves. Just as outstanding was the fact that nine different Sabres players had a point during the game, and six had a +2 rating or better.
Fans couldn’t ask for a better start to the Terry Pegula Era.