The Buffalo Sabres "flipped the switch" Saturday night and provided many Buffalonians a release after an early-season snowstorm crippled the Western New York region. The Sabres fell behind 2-0 for the second straight night before storming back in a 7-4 blowout of the New York Rangers. Chris Drury notched his first career hat trick and Ales Kotalik, Daniel Briere, Maxim Afinogenov and Jochen Hecht rounded out the scoring for Buffalo, who are off to their best start since going 8-0 in 1975.
The Rangers took advantage of both Buffalo penalties on a first period 5-on-3 opportunity as Brendan Shanahan and Fedor Tyutin scored just a minute and 18 seconds apart. Buffalo responded two minutes later when Ales Kotalik turned his stick into a lob wedge and chipped the puck over goaltender Kevin Weekes.
The slow start and problems back home -- ranging from no power to flooded basements to downed trees -- had the sold out crowd rather quiet for the first 15 minutes. With just under four minutes left, the electricity in HSBC Arena was turned on high voltage when Jaromir Jagr took an undisciplined penalty and proceeded to whine in displeasure. The fans who never need a reason to hate a one-way, no effort player like Jagr began piling on the Rangers offensive star.
The Sabres also wasted no time piling on goals starting with the ensuing power play. Chris Drury picked up a rebound to the left of the Rangers net and shoveled it into the net to tie the game. Just over a minute later, Daniel Briere completed a pretty passing playing from Jason Pominville and Jiri Novotny, Buffalo never looked back.
Three minutes into the second period, Maxim Afinogenov deflected a Jaroslav Spacek shot over the right shoulder of Weekes. Five minutes later, Jochen Hecht put Buffalo up 5-2 when his centering pass deflected into the Rangers net off a New York defenseman. Everything was going Buffalo's way and for the first time in the young season, the Sabres looked like the powerhouse team they are.
"That was as good as I've seen us play the first five games," said head coach Lindy Ruff. "That looked like our team."
Colton Orr tried to energize his team by picking a fight with Andrew Peters but just like everything else tonight, Buffalo's tough guy pounded the Ranger into the ice.
Shanahan would bring New York within two goals with his second of the game before Buffalo's Chris Drury scored two more goals to complete his hat trick. His third goal came off a scramble in front of the Rangers net while Buffalo was on the power play. Normally, the Buffalo faithful would gleefully throw their hats onto the ice but the confusion in front of the Rangers net shielded the fact that it was Drury who scored his third of the game.
The Rangers would score one more late in the game to finalize the scoring at 7-4.
POSTGAME POWER PLAY QUICK HITS:
mild | medium | HOT | suicidal
The city of Buffalo and all of Western New York needed the Sabres to lift their spirits and the team didn't let them down.
Most Sabres' fans like myself probably started getting used to the new logo and new sweaters, and why not? When you team is this good who cares what they wear. However, seeing the vintage uniforms in person Saturday night just reminded me how scary good we could have it.
Still 100,000 NYSEG customers and 200,000 National Grid customers without power in the Western New York region.
Buffalo Fans. Simply put, there were so many reasons for Sabres' fans not to be into this game. However, the best fans in the NHL wouldn't let a little thing like a weather disaster get in the way of cheering their team on to victory.
Jaromir Jagr. The Rangers had the momentum in this tilt until Jagr woke up the crowd and the Sabres with his typical crying and whining. You can add Jagr to the ever growing list of superstars who we should never want to see in blue-and-gold.
Drury, Briere and Novotny were the three best players on the ice and they deserved the three stars. It would be hard picking a fourth star as the rest of the team all played well. So the fourth star will have to go to all the utility workers who made it possible for Sabres' fans to make their way down to the Arena for all corners of Western New York.
The Big Click
Jaromir Jagr tries to line up countrymen Ales Kotalik but Kotalik gets the better of him. Jagr is dropped to the ice and begins to favor his porcelain shoulder.
The Burning Question
How many fans in attendance at HSBC Arena left their house without power or a flooded basement?
The Fight Card
Colton Orr tried to lift the Rangers only to be put down by Buffalo's Andrew Peters.
Crunching the Numbers
3 - times this season Buffalo has trailed 2-0.
3 - times this season they came back to win.
3 - goals by Chris Drury tonight.
3 - hundred thousand customers still without power in Western New York.
"The fans did a great job. I guess they needed a release this weekend with so much hardship and inconvenience going on right now. It was fun to get the people out to the rink and give them a good show," -- Sabres goalie Ryan Miller.
In the Buffalo Wings
The Philadelphia Flyers skate into town on Tuesday for a game that will be nationally televised on Versus (HD).