|Tim Kennedy (Getty Images) |
The talk in the Buffalo Sabres dressing room Friday morning was about how the "Buffalo boys," Tim Kennedy and Patrick Kaleta
, combined to set up Craig Rivet's game-winning goal in Thursday's 2-1 Game 1 victory of their Eastern Conference Stanley Cup Playoff series against the Boston Bruins.
Kennedy is from South Buffalo and Kaleta is from Hamburg, N.Y. They played against each other in Buffalo-area youth hockey, went in separate directions when Kennedy attended Michigan State -- where he played with Ryan Miller
's brother Drew -- and Kaleta played for the Peterborough Petes in the OHL.
Both played key roles in the winning goal on Thursday.
With the score tied, 1-1, Kennedy rushed the puck up ice into the Bruins end and passed to Rivet a split second before he got hit. Kaleta drove the net and crashed into defenseman Johnny Boychuk while Rivet moved quickly down the right wing and fired a sharp-angle shot at 14:10 of the second period that proved to be the game-winner. That goal negated a 24-shot second-period barrage by the Bruins.
Kaleta drew a couple of penalties in the third period that disrupted Boston's lines and defense pairings. As a result, the Bruins were limited to six shots in the third period. Kaleta had also scrapped with Boston captain Zdeno Chara in the first period, receiving a 10-minute misconduct but also getting Chara off the ice for four minutes.
"People aren't always fond of me out there and they take penalties," Kaleta said. "That's my job and it helps my team."
Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said Kaleta, who played only 6:48, was the player "who got the most bang for his buck last night."
Rivet, a 12-year veteran, was impressed with both players on the game-breaking play.
"Timmy did a great job lugging the puck up the ice. He made a really solid move inside their blue line and I just tried to find some space," Rivet said. "The first forward (Kaleta) drives the net hard and is there for the rebound. It just happened that Patty drove the net and created the screen, and I was able to get that shot through."
"They were changing and there was some room there so I just skated up until they closed me off so I decided to go across the blue line," Kennedy said. "The left winger came at me and I saw 'Rivs' wide open, so I threw him the puck and he came down the wing and made a perfect shot."
|BUFFALO, NY - JANUARY 29: Patrick Kaleta #36 of the Buffalo Sabres battles for the puck against David Krejci #46 of the Boston Bruins on January 29, 2010 at HSBC Arena in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images) |
All three players were asked if Kaleta's move was "generic" or if he anticipated Rivet's right-wing move -- after all, Rivet is no one's idea of an offensive defenseman; the goal was his first in the playoffs since 2007 and only the fourth of his career.
"That's our game plan with this goalie. He has great stats and you don't get many chances," Kennedy said. "We have to get guys going to the net, and Patty set a great screen. 'Rivs' realized he was screening one way so he shot the other way."
By going to the net, Kaleta was merely following the Sabres' style of play
"Our system is designed for us to go to the net, even in the playoffs," Kaleta said. "The style in the NHL is getting to the net and get some bounces. He went across and I was trying to create the screen and he ripped a great shot."
"I wasn't thinking of anything else but going down the right side," Rivet said.
Kaleta dug for a puck along the boards in the third period and banged his head three times against the glass, coming away with a stream of blood running down his face. He had eight stitches in a badly puffed left eyebrow Friday morning.
"If Kaleta isn't bleeding or doesn't break his nose, he's not having a good time," Ruff said.
"Everybody around here loves that. He's not afraid to get dirty. We have to teach him how to not lead with his face so much. He tends to do that once in a while. He sets a tone and brings a lot of energy and you need a guy like that for the playoffs."
It's obvious the Sabres love to tease their shift disturber, and Kaleta has a pretty good stand-up act.
"I think it adds a little character to my face," Kaleta said, pointing to his welt and stitches. "I don't know if it needs anymore. When I play, I like to get hit or hit somebody to get in the game. Me getting cut? It's minor and it goes away. I was in the game, in the moment.
"There's not a whole lot up there so I just keep going and going," Kaleta said, pointing to where his brain ought to be. "I don't really think about it. I do what I have to do."
Both Kennedy and Kaleta grew up Sabres fans and were thrilled to play in their first Sabres playoff game, let along be in on the winning goal.
"It was awesome. That's what you're always dreaming about when you're growing up and I'm from here so it's something special," Kennedy said. "It was great to be out there. We're just part of the team and glad to help out."
Kaleta was just another young fan 11 years ago when the Sabres made their last trip to the Stanley Cup Final.
"I can go through special playoff moments from Brad May to Dave Hannan to the 1999 Stanley Cup run," Kaleta said, adding that Michael Peca was his favorite player. "It's a little different being on the fan side and watching and being out there yesterday was a different feeling. I'm part of the team, wearing the jersey at playoff time. That was one of the best moments I ever had."