Great night to be fan, but not a goaltender

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 10:10 AM ET

The goalie sat in his stall, talking in hushed tones, lamenting the rebounds that got away, how he had to be better for his team the next game.

And that was in the winning dressing room.

Welcome to the new NHL, Ryan Miller.

Thirteen pucks found their way into the spaces behind Miller in the Sabres crease and fellow rookie goaltender Ray Emery in the Senators net.

"It was just one of those nights," said Emery, beaten seven times on just 23 shots, the 23rd coming just 18 seconds into overtime to give the Sabres a 1-0 lead in an improbable, incredible, start to the Eastern Conference semi-final.

One of those nights?

There were four goals scored in the last 1:55 of the game, three of them by the Sabres.

One of those nights?

Thirteen goals? That used to be "one of those months" for the New Jersey Devils on their march to a Stanley Cup.

It was Emery's first real stumble of consequence in the post-season -- if you consider falling off the Peace Tower a stumble -- the others neatly camouflaged by his teammates' scoring in the opening round against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

If it was "just one of those nights," it will be the only one allowed before hourly updates on Dominik Hasek's groin become necessary.

Not that Emery was alone in having a dreadful night.

The play of fellow rookie Andrej Meszaros on the Ottawa blue line can be charitably described as spotty.

Senators defenceman Anton Volchenkov overskated the puck in the young moments of overtime, leaving it for Buffalo's Mike Grier to feed Chris Drury for the winner to Emery's short side.

Four goals in less than two minutes?

In the NHL playoffs?

Remember when they always talked about how open the Western Conference used to be and how stifling the East was?

Put last night's game up against the Game 7 between the Anaheim and Calgary.

There were more goals in the first seven minutes last night than in all of that forgettable Game 7.

How about three goals in the last 97 seconds of regulation time, two by the Sabres to tie it, the last by Tim Connolly with a shade over 10 seconds left in regulation time?

Speed and creativity, not seen in the Eastern time zone since Jacques Lemaire went to New Jersey and turned the East into a swamp 10 years ago, now rule.

Game 1 was a wonderful display of what happens when coaching and systems are overwhelmed by pure talent and speed.

There were simply too many times last night when things happened too quickly for preconceived responses or percentage plays to matter.

It was certainly too much for the kids in net, not that more experienced stoppers might have been able to fare better.

"That was a pretty unique game. I don't think you'll see too many of those," said Miller, perhaps guilty of wishful thinking.

"Our fans will remember it more fondly than the Ottawa fans. It was a pretty incredible game either way.

"It's playoffs, wins and losses. We'll throw that one out the window. We'll adjust."

Don't bet on it.

There were just too many guys on the ice last night who knew what to do with the puck and were given the time and space to do it.

Miller said there were simply too many options.

"On rebounds, usually we collapse, but we have to follow guys around," he said. "Even on our goals, they were concerned with our guys. If Danny Briere is sitting back door or Tim Connolly or Derek Roy, who had five points tonight. Who are you going to shade to? Same thing for us. We got into trouble trying to help out, but we got some bounces and we're happy to walk out of here."

"It's tough when there's three or four guys hungry for the puck in front of the net," said Roy, the Rockland native. "I thought we made some great plays (last night). We were back-dooring plays, the 'D' was joining in the rush. They made some great plays also. The game was offensive and maybe next game it will be defensive."

Again, don't bet on it.

chris.stevenson@ott.sunpub.com


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