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Second straight comeback falls short
Sabres extend home dominance over Sharks
12/9/10 - By Mike Lee -

Twenty-four hours after the miracle comeback in Philadelphia, the Sharks had the misfortune of having to end their road trip with back-to-back games in the one place that has served as a house of horrors since the team’s inception 20 years ago. They would drop a 6-3 decision to the Buffalo Sabres at HSBC Arena, but not before taking a crack at another crazy comeback.

The score is deceiving, because the game was separated by a single goal with 27 seconds to play. Buffalo would score an empty net goal in the final minute, then would tack on a meaningless goal with 9 ticks left.

The Sharks were in the unfortunate situation of having to scrape back from another three goal deficit after letting an opponent run roughshod over them early. After taking things to the shootout the night before, tired legs seemed to catch up to San Jose. They would come out firing, still buzzing from the heroics in Philly, but Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller was in a stingy mood.

A little bad luck didn’t help either. Buffalo got on the board midway through the opening period when Paul Gaustad lifted a puck from the left side that hit defenseman Dan Boyle in the helmet. The puck took a 90-degree left turn after glancing off Boyle’s melon, right into the Sharks goal.

Thomas Vanek made it 2-0 at 6:48 of the 2nd period on a slapper from the high slot. Derek Roy setup the goal with a backhanded pass from the side of the Sharks goal. Vanek stepped into the shot, ripping it past goaltender Antti Niemi for his 12th tally of the season.

A high sticking penalty to Luke Adam at 12:13 put the Sharks on the power play, giving them a chance to cut into the Sabres lead, but that would backfire when Jason Pominville converted a short-handed chance. Pominville was the beneficiary of a botched pass attempt by Jason Demers near the Buffalo blueline. The Sabres winger grabbed the loose puck and raced up ice before whipping a 17-foot shot past Niemi.

Logan Couture continued to wield a hot hand, converting on the power play after Buffalo took a bench minor for too many men on the ice. The rookie snapped a shot from the top of the left circle that squeezed through traffic before beating Miller. The goal was his 14th of the season.

Couture would setup another goal with 45 seconds left in the period. Carrying the puck up the right side, Couture put on the brakes then slid a feed to the slot as Marc-Edouard Vlassic pinched in from the point. Vlassic took two stabs at the puck with Patrick Kaleta draped all over him. The second shot would get the puck past Miller for Vlasic’s first goal of the season.

All the momentum San Jose built on the Vlasic goal so close to the 2nd intermission was wiped out with a Sabres goal 31 seconds into the 3rd period. Gaustad chased a loose puck into the right corner, then sent a backhand pass to Cody McCormick on the Sharks front door. Defenseman Doulas Murray was caught out of position on the play, allowing McCormick to lurk unattended at the top of the crease.

Murray would atone for that gaff at 9:26 with his 1st goal of the season, leveraging a screen by Sabres defenseman Mike Weber. Murray uncorked his shot from the top of the left circle after Weber tried to block the shot. The block attempt ended up blocking Miller and allowing the puck to find twine to cut the Sabres lead to a lone goal.

Just like that, the Sharks were back in it. They would spend the next ten minutes trying to scratch out the tying goal, but they couldn’t muster any more magic.

San Jose was forced to pull Niemi, which simplified Gaustad’s 2nd tally of the game. Buffalo strung together a series of long passes to evade the Sharks skaters before Gaustad ended things with the empty netter.

With the game already decided, the Sabres rubbed the Sharks noses in it by pushing the play after the Gaustad goal. That would result in another Vanek goal 18 seconds later. The tally did nothing more than provide a little motivation for the Sharks who will get another crack at Buffalo on January 6th, when the Sabres visit HP Pavilion. San Jose will have three days to rest up for that game.


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Scoring
1 2 3 T
SJ 0 2 1 3
BUF 1 2 3 6
1st period - 1, BUF, Gaustad 2 (McCormick), 12:18.
2nd period - 2, BUF, Vanek 12 (Roy, Gerbe), 6:48. 3, BUF, Pominville 3 (unassisted), 13:26, (sh). 4, SJ, Couture 14 (Boyle, Clowe), 15:50, (pp). 5, SJ, Vlasic 1 (Couture, Clowe), 19:15.
3rd period - 6, BUF, McCormick 4 (Gaustad), 0:31. 7, SJ, Murray 1 (Mitchell), 9:26. 8, BUF, Gaustad 3 (McCormick, Sekera), 19:33, (en). 9, BUF, Vanek 13 (Roy, Gerbe), 19:51.
Penalties
1st period - Weber, BUF (delay of game – puck over glass), 8:32.
2nd period - Thornton, SJ (holding), 2:25; Adam, BUF (high sticking), 12:13; Bench, BUF (too many men), 15:14.
3rd period - None.
Goaltending
Shots Saves
SJ - Niemi 36 31
SJ - empty net 1 0
BUF - Miller 29 26
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
SJ 12 8 9 29
BUF 9 18 10 37
Power Play Conversion
SJ 1 of 3
BUF 0 of 1
3 Stars of the Game
Cody McCormick
Paul Gaustad
Thomas Vanek
Attendence
19,801
Officials
Referees: Walkom, StPierre. Linesmen: Kovachik, Nowak.
Holiday Gifts at BustedTees

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