Talk about a pressure release.
Clarke MacArthur's goal at 7:59 of the first period Friday meant much more than a mere 1-0 lead over the Montreal Canadiens. It helped the Buffalo Sabres overcome a monthlong obstacle that had sent their season into crisis mode.
After the morning skate Friday, the 22-year-old joked that it seemed like everyone in the Sabres' dressing room "has a snake wrapped around their stick right now." That's what happens when you give up the first goal 14 straight games and don't have a lead in regulation all month.
MacArthur's tally set the stage for a three-goal first period by the team and for the first multi-goal game of his career as Buffalo beat the Habs, 4-1, in HSBC Arena.
"When we get the first goal, the confidence just rises through the roof," MacArthur said. ". . . We've been getting shots every game, a lot of shots. They're going to go in and they did tonight. We've just got to keep that going."
MacArthur went hard to the net and potted Derek Roy's rebound past Cristobal Huet.
"He went to the net with an attitude and with an edge," Roy said. "He got that goal for us and it was huge to get uplifted."
"I was at the right spot at the right time," MacArthur said. "We've been getting pucks to the net and we've had shots that were getting blocked. I just found a little hole there and it was lucky enough to go in."
MacArthur was installed on the power play Thursday night in Ottawa and saw more than five minutes on that unit. Coach Lindy Ruff liked his contribution in that game and was even more pleased Friday.
"He's played a pretty big role for us," said Ruff. "He's a talented kid that has really worked hard, tried to make a difference and his spark has been really good."
"He's a great character guy," Roy said. "He's got tremendous skill, tremendous upside to his game. He works really hard in practice and games. We need that energy on this team."
Tim Connolly (oblique) skated Friday morning and said he is aiming to be available for the team's next game, Wednesday at home against Ottawa.
Defenseman Nolan Pratt made his second appearance after missing four games with a groin strain. Pratt assisted on Jochen Hecht's first-period goal Thursday in Ottawa, then unleashed the long shot from the point that Daniel Paille tipped in for Buffalo's second goal of the first period Friday.
"We wanted him for his battle," Ruff said. "He's worked hard to get himself in shape. It's nice to see."
With Pratt back in the lineup, defenseman Andrej Sekera was returned to Rochester.
The Sabres blare "Sweet Caroline" in Boston Red Sox style late in games they have wrapped up. But until it was unleashed in the third period Friday, the tune had been in hibernation since last month. The only home win this month had been the Nov. 7 overtime triumph over Boston.
Cracked Ruff: "I didn't think I was ever going to hear Neil Diamond sing again."
Irish tenor Ronan Tynan will sing "God Bless America" before Wednesday's game against Ottawa. Tynan will also participate in a pregame autograph signing from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. in front of the Sabres Store. . . . Strangely enough, the Sabres snapped their losing ways even though they were outshot for the first time in the last eight games, 37-28. . . . Buffalo has had two three-game losing streaks this season but has averted a four-game skid both times. The team hasn't dropped four in a row since losing five straight in March 2006.