It was February 6th, 2008, and Western New York was still locked in the grip of Winter. Weathermen predicted that a storm would pass through Buffalo that night, but instead of snow, the city was pounded by a blizzard of sheer ice.
While most residents chose to stay off the frozen streets, there were a few that found it better to make their way to HSBC Arena. Rather than sit at home and outlast the brutal conditions, 18,690 people came together in downtown Buffalo to watch a hockey game between the Sabres and the visiting New Jersey Devils. Those fans got their money’s worth.
Michael Ryan sent the crowd into a frenzy only two minutes and thirty seconds into the first period. The call-up from the Rochester Americans was in the right place at the right time to deflect a Henrik Tallinder slapshot past Martin Brodeur and score his fourth goal of the year. Buffalo would proceed to dominate the rest of the period, holding New Jersey to only four shots on net.
Just over eight minutes into the second period, Jason Pominville put Buffalo ahead by two without any kind of stick-work whatsoever. Instead, he managed to redirect a missed pass from Daniel Paille as he crashed the net, and it was his skate that ended up bouncing the puck behind Brodeur.
The Devils benched initially went into an uproar, believing that Pominville executed an illegal kicking motion. But after a brief video review, the goal was upheld by the referees, and Pominville had his 14th of the season.
New Jersey then decided to take matters into their own hands. At 15:25, they finally beat Ryan Miller and put themselves on the board for the first time that night. Brian Gionta fed a perfect pass to Karel Rachunek, who was positioned at the top of the right circle, and wristed a shot into top right corner of the Buffalo net.
New Jersey never slowed down from there, while the Sabres found themselves shrinking in the midst of the Devils’ momentum. Just over six minutes into the third period, Mike Mottau attempted a pass towards John Madden, which was instead intercepted by Dmitri Kalinin.
Unfortunately for the Russian defensemen, he inadvertently swatted the puck into his own net, and the game was tied at 2-2. New Jersey continued to dominate the game, out-shooting Buffalo by a margin of 15-5 in the third period.
Each team only managed one shot on goal during a tense overtime session, and every person in the arena found themselves standing up for the shootout. Drew Stafford landed the first blow, wiring a lightning-fast wrist shot past Brodeur to put the Sabres ahead. Offensive powerhouse Zach Parise went next, but his backhand flew wide of Miller and the Buffalo net. Then the real fun began.
There were plenty of baffled reactions amongst the crowd as Tallinder, who was making his first career shootout attempt, was announced as the second Sabres shooter. To just about everyone’s shock, Tallinder deked out Brodeur and got the famed goalie to fall to the ice before flinging the puck into the net.
“Whaat a move by Hank Tallinder!” Rick Jeanerette shouted on the live broadcast, “Faked the shot, put down what a lot of people consider the best goaltender in hockey, and drilled it in behind him!”
Not surprisingly, the crowd got pretty loud at that point.
The fans grew even louder when Miller effortlessly caught a shot from Brian Gionta, and secured the Buffalo victory that night. He and Tallinder would eventually return to the ice as they were named the first and third stars of the game, respectively.
Those same fans soon left the arena, and went back out into the bitter blizzard that chilled all of Buffalo. Some ventured deeper into the city to continue enjoying the night at one of many taverns or restaurants, while others traveled straight to their homes.
Though no matter where they went or what they did after, they all witnessed a terrific hockey game firsthand, and no blizzard would have kept them from doing so.