When Hank Tallinder came off the bench in the shootout, suddenly there was something in the air inside HSBC Arena. A palpable feeling came over a building full of travel-worn hockey fans desperate for a playoff push.
Something special was about to happen.
The Sabres had lost a two goal lead to the Devils once again, struggled through tired legs and a stifling opponent. But when Stafford found a hole and Parise lost the handle there suddenly appeared that chance to end the comeback. Finish them. They had come back too many times.
I know we are infringing on some copyrights (Sorry, Mr. Whippert) but take a look at that picture. Hank skating away like he’d done this all his life, a stunned linesman staring down a defeated Marty Brodeur, and a crowd screaming in disbelief.
After that you knew Ryan wasn’t letting anything go by. This game was over, and Hank the Tank had slain the dragon.
Tonight wasn’t just a two point win, this was a statement game in every regard. Coming home to the Devils is a chore to begin with, let alone after a Bruins game the night before. Two months ago this team would have coasted to a shady loss and blamed the tired legs, but there’s no time for that anymore, no margin for error.
Yeah, they lost a two goal lead and played with little energy in the third, but when it came time to bring down the hammer they did. Lindy had the balls to take a chance and Hank pulled through, something this team so badly needed. Their celebration after his goal, as well as the Miller save, really showed how badly this team needed that. The only thing that I’ve seen rival that circle afterwards was their celebration after The Chris Neil Game last year.
Who knows what Friday will bring, but the smiles on our faces following the game were the same smiles guys like Campbell, Pratt and Goose had on the bench. This win was more then just about points, it proves that this team can beat playoff opponents and has what it takes to win down the stretch when it counts.
Some other thoughts:
– No sign tonight because we didn’t get in on time. I left the house at 4:30 and didn’t get parked until 6:15. I saw the icebreakers out today, I’m pretty sure I could have canoed there faster.
– Kaleta is just so good at what he does. I hate saying it over and over again, but he keeps making it true. Better get on that shirt, twoeightnine.
– Vanek was partly responsible for the first Devils goal, but I thought he had another good game. There was one shift in particular where I wanted to give his line a standing ovation for the forecheck effort. He’s getting better, I swear. (I’ll probably have a full post about Vanek tomorrow. I’ve been thinking things over…)
– Crowd was pretty blah tonight. Understandably late because of the weather, but another typical Value night crowd with no energy. Bah.
– I’ve decided I’m not going to worry about Campbell’s play anymore. Over the past few weeks the general mood about Soup has been pretty vindictive around these parts. Even at the arena, the sarcastic calls for a Savardian Spin-o-rama and a big payday rain down with every touch of the puck. Mistakes are a part of his game, and it’s something I had gotten used to because he plays a risky style.
The pressure is on, and to an extent it’s unfair. I believe him when he says he broke off talks to focus on the stretch run, and no matter what happens in the off-season I’d like to think he really does care about this team in the present. He is an asset that we need at the moment, and right now I’m going to try to forget my personal feelings towards his value and watch the whole team. I think it’s for the best.
– I had forgotten that Tallinder was a forward in the past. I guess we forget a lot about Hank. (Like the term “triple-team”…)
– It seems like every game is a “big game”, but Friday against Boston has the feel of a “big” big game. The kind that makes you want to grab a single seat and take it in live. Hrm… we’ll see…