When Toni Lydman put his shot on net and someone - at that point it was up in the air who - tipped it in net, I didn't cheer and neither did Mark. But things went silent in the kitchen for a long moment and my whole body stiffened up and my ears perked up and zeroed in on the game even more than they already were. It still seemed like a stretch - I mean, there was what, two something left in the game? I wasn't sure - but maybe...
When Vanek's second goal went in to tie the game, our place went ballistic. Screaming, whooping, high-fives. I hobbled back into the other room as quickly as I could maneuver my crutches and Mark joined me. We then had the obligatory "Should we stay where we were? Are we going to ruin the mojo?" conversation for a few seconds before we finally decided, screw it, when the Sabres win this game we want to see it.
I don't want to take any credit away from the players who got the assists here because there were some beautiful passes involved on the game-tying and game-winning goals but holy crow, Thomas Vanek. Thomas Vanek who has almost as many goals in the last ten or so games as he had in the first half of the season. Thomas Vanek who has nine of the Sabres' last fourteen goals. Thomas Vanek who stood up in the dressing room after a loss and said the Sabres would be in the playoffs and that's all that mattered. It had to be Thomas Vanek. It had to be Thomas Vanek who scored two goals in the third period and then finished off the natural hat-trick in overtime. It had to be Thomas Vanek, the player who much of Buffalo wanted to toss over the side of the Peace Bridge as recently as a couple of months ago, who put the Sabres on his back and carried them through a must-win game. How great is it to see this much-maligned kid slowly take steps forward in maturity and confidence? Seriously, unless you're a Tampa Bay fan (in which case, I salute you), games like tonight are part of why we watch sports, aren't they? If all you can see in last night's game is all the stuff that should have been different, well, I feel a little sorry for you.
Should the game have even been this close? No.
Did some important players look bad tonight? At times, absolutely.
Should the Sabres have won this game considering how they played for the first 40 minutes? Probably not.
But they won it anyway. And I'll take that.