Recap (courtesy Sabres.com)
Well, that's a relief. Sure felt like we were never winning again. This one was especially important, I think, because I certainly wouldn't want to be stewing over a seven-game losing streak for two weeks.
Buffalo skated well and moved the puck well, and never really allowed San Jose much time to set up in its offensive zone. The sustained pressure that they allowed against Boston and Carolina - namely, allowing their opponents to set up base camp in front of Miller and hack away at rebounds - was nowhere to be found tonight. Detractors will say that the Sabres took advantage of a San Jose team that was flat from the beginning, the product of a third game in four nights - but Buffalo wasn't allowed to use that excuse during its Western road trip, so I'm not interested in hearing that.
Not getting bounces seems to have been a theme throughout the losing streak, so it was fitting that the first goal involved a bit of luck. Tallinder made a nice, aggressive play to rush up the left wing, drawing three Sharks to him, then "launched" (and I use that term very loosely) a glacially slow pass across the crease that the San Jose defense may still be trying to locate. Gaustad was in the right place at the right time and banged it home, but that's a pass that isn't making it across 99% of the time.
Nabokov was outstanding for the Sharks. If not for a couple of robberies, it could have been 5-0 by the end of the second. At his end, Miller had a solid game except for whiffing on the Huskins goal. It's a bit concerning to me that he keeps giving up soft goals like this. That's at least four games in a row now, but a win is a win I suppose.
On a personal note, it's really odd to think that it's only February and I'm only going to three more regular season games this year. Out of eight home games in March, we've sold six of them. Yet another reason I'm relieved we won tonight.
So now we're back in first place, at least for the moment. If the Islanders beat Ottawa tomorrow, we'll remain in first place until the beginning of March. For all the failures of the last two years and all the struggles we've had since January, who amongst us thought we'd be able to say "first in the Northeast" with a month left in the season? Good stuff.