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Game 12: Hunting Buffalo

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Last night's Thrashers Sabres game was easily the best game so far this season if you were a Thrashers fan. I took in the game with some friends (including one Sabres fan) at Twain's a fine establishment in downtown Decatur that is very hockey friendly.

One key different element of this match up was the fact that the eyes of the NHL were focused on this particular contest because of Buffalo's winning streak to start the season. Both teams came out and played with a playoff-like intensity and like so many playoff games many of the goals scored in the game came off of broken plays or odd bounces of the puck.

ATL Goal 1: Hossa carries the puck in along the right-wing boards and dumps it down where Slater centers the puck to an open Holik who puts it past Ryan Miller for the first marker of the contest. Slater had the key play here as he managed to get the pass away despite being targeted by two different Buffalo players (who I might add interfered with Slater more than Hnidy did when he was called for a penalty early in the game).

BUF Goal 1: This goal was the produce to sustained offensive pressure by Buffalo aided by several Atlanta mistakes. First, Kovalchuk had flubbed the breakout pass creating a turnover that allowed Buffalo to keep the puck in the zone. Then Jon Sim had a brief opportunity to clear the zone but fails to do so. The puck comes behind the net and Hecht makes a pass across to wide open Briere who a backdoor goal. On the replay you can just see Sutton coming into the picture as his man scores the goal. Sutton and Briere had both been the in corner but Andy trails behind badly when Briere makes his cut to the net.

ATL Goal 2: The Thrashers third line of Slater, Mellanby and Holik answer right back after the Sabres tied it with a quick goal. Off the rush, Holik carries toward the boards which pulls the defender towards him and then lays out a fine pass to Mellanby who filled the open lane and fires a shot past Miller (who probably should have been able to stop one from that far). Afinogenov turned over the puck that gave the Thrashers the scoring chance.

Hossa misses yet another breakaway--I'm amazed that he doesn't finish these off more.
Numminen hits iron with a slapper from the point.
Hossa tried one of his patented moves from the corner to the front of the net and is denied.
Buffalo's Hecht is having a good game--short handed chance.

BUF Goal 2: Power Play goal by Buffalo, a Vishnevski hooking gives them the man advantage. The Thrashers PK box looks fine and Lehtonen makes the first save but the rebound squibs to his left and Vanek gets an easy tap-in goal. Havelid reacts too late to prevent Vanek from scoring.

ATL Goal 3: Clean face-off win by Kapanen leads to Sutton point shot that is wide on the left side but produces a rebound directly to the right door step where Kapanen scores the back door goal for his first of the season.

BUF Goal 3: Thrashers win the face off in their own end cleanly but Andy Sutton does one of his head-down "I'll just dump it blindly up the boards" specials which the Sabres defenseman easily holds and shoots toward the net. Lehtonen makes the original save but the rebound goes right to Pominville who chips it into the net.

ATL Goal 4: Kovalchuk answers right back, playing with Holik and Mellanby. Kovalchuk finds a hole in the high slot and his line mates find him there and he lazers one by Miller. That makes five straight games with a goal for Kovalchuk.

BUF Goal 4: Pominville shot and rebound comes out to Hecht in the slot and he puts it away. Sutton's man scores. Not a good night for Sutton. Not a really good night for Kari in terms of rebound control.

Shootout: How many standing points will Kozlov and Kari earn this team over the course of the season? Kozlov is just money and he doesn't rely on just one move either. Lehtonen looked very unsure of where the puck ended up on two of his saves but the referee signaled save to the relief of the Thrasher bench. I noticed that Kozlov renewed the tradition of rally helmets after scoring to give Atlanta a 1-0 lead in the shootout.