Before the start of the second period in last night's Devils-Sabres contest which decided the #2 and #3 seeds everyone heard that the Flyers beat the Rangers in a shootout and despite all the fear around Devils Nation of what that meant if the Devils won (a showdown with the Flyers themselves) there was still the roar of approval you'd expect from a Ranger loss. Apparently even the Devils themselves knew, since they were watching the shootout in between periods. Personally I would have banned the TV from being on in the locker room if I were Jacques Lemaire. Even goaltender Martin Brodeur admitted he felt funny thinking about it the rest of the night, saying 'if I move one arm we're playing Boston and if I move the other we're playing Philly'.
Be that as it may, the two teams played a spirited game even though the Sabres were resting starting goalie Ryan Miller and have other players mending from injuries while the Devils sat Colin White and Pierre Luc-Letourneau Leblond, who had played the team's last seven games. If both teams tried to play it halfway with their lineup choices, even the fans had conflicted feelings. My fellow season ticket holder next to me admitted he didn't want to face the Flyers, was rooting steadfast against the Rangers but wasn't going to root against the Devils during the game.
Personally I wanted the second seed (and wouldn't worry about who we played until after the final buzzer) and was glad that Brodeur played, especially since a last-ditch win would get me a fantasy championship as it worked out. Lemaire did sit White a day after being talked out of doing so by the veteran defenseman. Which tells me that there was more to the Jaime Langenbrunner benching a couple weeks back than merely a 'rest' day since he didn't give the captain the chance to talk him out of it, but I digress.
After a mostly bleh first period, the second period got off to a good start for the Sabres when Thomas Vanek scored at 1:10, giving a suddenly hot Sabre his fifth goal in two games. Then things took a strange turn as the audio system at the Rock went silent for at least fifteen minutes shortly after Vanek's goal. When Travis Zajac scored his 25th of the year at 6:27, there was no announcement so one fan in 208 eventually did his best Kevin Clark impression and gave us the scoring and time of the goal so convincingly it was actually funny, though one of the assists did eventually get changed from Langenbrunner to Paul Martin, with Ilya Kovalchuk getting the primary assist.
With the sound down, we provided our own entertaininment, with this same fan humming the chicken dance - the one where 'The Rangers Suck' goes in the chorus during one of the stoppages in play. Finally after some initial odd hiccups the audio did work again and the goal announcement took place very belatedly, but you have to wonder if this building is having so many problems (including Lightninggate in January) after just 2.5 years, how bad will it get when it's 20-30 years old?!
Now that we no longer had to do the PA's job, we settled in to watch an entertaining third period where the Devils outshot the Sabres 14-7 in part due to late penalties by Steve Montador and Mike Grier which gave us a short five-on-three and allowed us to spend the last two and a half minutes on the power play. Making matters worse for Buffalo, they needed to win in regulation to get the two seed so having a five-on-three against them put a crimp in plans to pull Lalime for the extra attacker.
Finally when the Sabres were only one man down, coach Lindy Ruff signaled Lalime to the bench in the final seconds but he wasn't looking over there - perhaps forgetting about the odd situation at hand. When he finally did realize he needed to get off the ice he skated like mad to the bench, and his skate clipped the ref with both falling to the ice. Langenbrunner got possession of the puck and fired in an odd empty-net power play goal with just three seconds left to clinch the win, the second seed and my fantasy league title with Zach Parise and Brian Rolston getting assists on the play.
In an upcoming blog or two I'll preview the playoffs and give a quasi-season recap. For now, it's back to work and eventually rest after a long weekend.
BoNY Three Stars:
- Travis Zajac (goal, +1)
- Thomas Vanek (goal, +1)
- Jamie Langenbrunner (goal, +1)