Another game, another injury the Buffalo Sabres will be forced to endure.
Midway through the second period of the Sabres 4-3 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins, Ales Kotalik suffered a lower-body injury that will put the right-winger on the sidelines for an undetermined span of time. "We don't know the exact extent of the injury," said head coach Lindy Ruff. "We'll know more in the near future."
Two things were for certain concerning Kotalik. He will not be able to dress in Tuesday night's match-up with the Philadelphia Flyers and another prospect from the Rochester Americans will be recalled.
"It's tough," said Ruff of the absence of Maxim Afinogenov, Paul Gaustad, Jiri Novotny, Jaroslav Spacek and now Kotalik. "I thought both the young guys [Drew Stafford and Clarke MacArthur] handled the game fine. We battled hard to get back in it."
Buffalo fought from a two-goal deficit in the final two minutes of the second period to tie the game 3-3. A 16-player, eight-round shootout was needed to decide the two team's seventh meeting with Petr Tenkrat scoring the lone goal in the shootout to take the decision.
Goaltender Ryan Miller was still wondering how the puck made it across the goal line following the game.
"I thought I could change his mind and throw an early poke check," said Miller, who stopped 27-of-30 shots. "I think he shot as a last resort because I took his space away. I don't know how it went in ... still.
"It must have dropped down and rolled."
Boston has now handed the NHL's best shootout goaltender two of his three losses this season. Miller boasts a 9-3 shootout record and his first loss was also the team's first loss after winning their opening 10 games.
"To come back from two [goals], we had a couple of chances to win it, and we've been good in the shootout, it's a devastating feeling," said Ruff of losing in a shootout. "But we've been on the other side of it enough times to know what it feels like to win.
"There wasn't a sound in that locker room. There wasn't one guy that was satisfied. It was as quiet as quiet can be when you lose in that situation. You battle hard, you want to win the game."
Replacing goaltender Tim Thomas as the extra attacker with a delayed penalty called on Buffalo, Marco Strum fired a slapshot from the high slot that crept between Miller's pads to give Boston the 1-0 lead at 3:59 of the first.
Stafford pays the price but is rewarded with more than just bruises at 14:13 of the opening period. Receiving a feed at the goal line, the Milwaukee, W.I.-native beat Thomas with a backhander before being driven into the net by defenseman Andrew Alberts.
It was Stafford's first career power-play goal and his first since Dec. 1 at Washington. After just one goal in the last three games, the power play scored on three of eight opportunities.
"I just tried to take it to the net and got a lucky break," said Stafford, who has three goals and three assists in 20 games with Buffalo this season. "I didn't know it went in because I was knocked down pretty quick, but I was glad it did."
Ruff rewarded Stafford for his hard work with 17:59 TOI and the second shooter position in the shootout. His between-the-legs wristshot off a rolling puck may have been stuffed but it was an opportunity that Stafford relished and hopes won't be his last.
"It's a little bit bigger stage here," said Stafford of the difference in shootouts from the AHL to NHL level. "It's a little bit more pressure and was my first one [in the NHL]. It was a big test for me and I didn't pass too well, but hopefully I get another crack at it sometime."
On a two-on-one break, Shean Donovan fed Marc Savard cutting to the net, where Boston's leading scorer flipped a backhander over Miller to make the score 3-1 in favor of Boston at 13:43 of the second.
With a two-man advantage, Chris Drury one timed Jason Pominville's pass from the point five hole on Tim Thomas to record his 15th power-play goal of the season and 31st overall, setting a new single-season career high. The goal is Drury's sixth versus Boston this season. Daniel Briere recorded the second assist.
Boston's lockerroom was a much happier place the first time the team walked back for the second intermission.
After an official review during intermission, Daniel Briere was awarded his 26th goal of the season and 52 seconds were placed back on the clock as the score was made 3-3. All this happened as Boston was resting comfortably in the visitor's room.
Having been determined that Thomas pulled Briere's shot from behind the goal line with his stick, Boston was forced to return to the ice to play out the remaining balance of the period. ------------------------------------------------------------------------- SCORING SHEETS Game Summary | Super Stats | Face-offs | Play-by-Play | Shift Chart