The Buffalo Sabres took a 2-1 lead into the third period and appeared to score their third goal of the game on a delayed penalty, when the referee signaled that the Sabres were guilty of an infraction.
The kicker is, Buffalo possessed the puck for almost 10 seconds before the goal, which was waived off. Tampa Bay's Teddy Purcell then tied the game on the power play seconds after the call, which was high sticking on Thomas Vanek, was made.
"I don't know. I just saw it from the penalty box and I didn't know I got him, and second of all, we scored a goal 10 seconds later and then all of a sudden there was a penalty," Vanek said, looking puzzled after the game. "I think (the referee) was a little off today, But you know, it happens. Too bad."
The call on Vanek was an immediate momentum shifter. Not only did Buffalo not have a two-goal lead in the third period, but instead gave up a power play goal. That point of the game is still leaving players in the locker room scratching their heads.
"I didn't even know we had a penalty," Vanek continued. "I guess, I tipped it in, and next thing I know he was waiving 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, I think it's what we needed and unfortunately they scored one right there."
During the play in question, Vanek had the puck in the corner and began to move it along the boards, when he appeared to be hooked on the play, which most in the building thought was what provoked the penalty signal from the referee. The puck was cycled by Buffalo for a few seconds, and eventually found Jamie McBain at the point, who ripped a shot that Vanek deflected into the net. It was at that point that the goal was waived off, and Vanek was penalized for high sticking.
While the play was a big one, it was not the only play of the game. Buffalo had plenty of chances to take the lead back, and was just unable to do so.
"We're not going to make excuses," Cody Hodgson said when asked about the call. "Especially at this point of the season. That's tough, but at the same time, this game was winnable. We had enough chances, power plays after that, chances in the slot, tap-ins that we missed, to put the game away. We can't just rely on one call."
The Sabres can still draw more than a few positives from tonight's tough loss. The team played its most complete game of the season and Buffalo scored two power play goals after not scoring a single one in the first three games. Buffalo earned their first point in the standings, and Marcus Foligno was a force. Foligno had seven hits in the game and even engaged in a fight early in the contest. His presence was felt in the lineup tonight, and Buffalo was a better team for it.
The Sabres will next take the ice Thursday when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets. Buffalo will be looking to build off of tonight's performance and earn its first win of the season.
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