The Sabres scored just over five minutes into the third to take a commanding 3-1 lead over new division rival Tampa Bay Lightning. Or so they thought.
Thomas Vanek caught Lightning defenseman Matt Carle with a high stick behind the net. Veteran referee Paul Devorski raised his arm immediately to signal the delayed penalty. Somehow, though, he missed Sabres forward Steve Ott taking a shot on goal. The rebound went right to Jamie McBain, who blasted a shot past Ben Bishop.
By that point, nobody heard the whistle. The crowd was going nuts, the Sabres were celebrating, and good ol’ Devo had to come in and rain on their parade. Carle went right over to the referee after the apparent goal as a befuddled Ron Rolston tried to figure out, from behind the Buffalo bench, what was going on. Instead of leading 3-1, the Sabres found themselves shorthanded.
The league released a statement addressing the call:
The referee did not see Sabres forward Steve Ott touch the puck, which then rebounded to Jamie McBain whose shot entered the net simultaneous with the referee blowing his whistle. The net result was the correct call – no goal, penalty to Buffalo.
“I didn’t even know we had a penalty,” Vanek said after the game. “I tipped it in, and the next thing I know he’s waving it off and pointing at me that I got two minutes. It was a little confusing, especially at that time to make it 3-1. That’s what we needed.”
It’s what the Sabres needed, but it’s not what they got. At least they got a point for making it to overtime before falling 3-2. For a team that was 0-3-0 coming in, it’s a point. You’ve got to start somewhere.