Midway through the Sabres' season finale Saturday, goaltender Jhonas Enroth skated out of his crease to play a puck that was dumped into the Buffalo zone. Nothing happened.
If that had been the case with Ryan Miller back in November, odds are good the Sabres wouldn't be cleaning out their lockers Monday.
The Sabres' season is officially over, coming to a close Saturday with a 4-3 shootout loss to the Bruins in TD Garden. A case can be made the season ended in this building Nov. 12.
Milan Lucic's bulldozing of Miller and the Sabres' lack of response to their franchise goalie getting run started a tailspin that lasted more than two months. They entered the Boston beatdown with a 10-5 record, but they won just nine of the next 33 games.
That 9-19-5 slide looms large for a team that missed the playoffs by just three points.
Miller spent the Sabres' season finale safely seated at the end of the bench. He missed nine games because of a concussion and whiplash suffered during the hit, but the pain lingered longer in his play.
Miller entered the Boston game 5-5 with a 2.74 goals-against average and .913 save percentage. He won just six of his next 18 decisions. Entering a 2-1 shootout victory over New Jersey on Jan. 24 -- the game in which the season finally turned around for Miller and the Sabres -- the goalie was just 11-15-2 with a 3.15 GAA and .897 save percentage.
"Ryan getting hurt, yeah [it changed the season]," defenseman Jordan Leopold said. "He's our No. 1, our ace in goal. It hurt us tremendously."
The way people looked at the Sabres changed when they allowed Lucic and the Bruins to bully them. General Manager Darcy Regier and coach Lindy Ruff pulled players aside individually to ask them how and why it happened.
The lack of togetherness and camaraderie that got exposed translated into a failure to find continuity on the ice.
"It was just a matter of finding how we needed to play to win games," Leopold said. "It took us awhile to figure out how five, six guys on the ice are going to have to play to win hockey games. Once we figured that out we went on a run."
The Sabres spent most of the season trying to downplay the Lucic-Miller collision and the impact it had on the team. That continued during the final weekend of the 2011-12 campaign.
"Overall, I thought it brought us closer, actually," forward Thomas Vanek said. "The worse thing that came out of it was Ryan was hurt. Obviously, when your starting goalie and one of the best goalies in the world is out, it hurts your team."
It didn't matter who was in net Saturday in game that meant nothing. Enroth, though, made the best of the situation. He made 37 saves through regulation and overtime. Boston's Patrice Bergeron scored the only goal of the shootout to send the Sabres running for the bus and their flight home."
"Playing games that don't mean anything isn't a lot of fun," Ruff said.
With 11:21 left, the Sabres were in prime position to end the season with a victory. Jason Pominville scored the third straight goal for Buffalo, following back-to-back tallies by Brad Boyes to give the visitors a 3-1 lead.
For the second straight game, they couldn't hold on in the third. Tyler Seguin scored with 10:04 to go to get the sellout crowd of 17,565 roaring. Brad Marchand upped the volume by tying the game with 7:39 to play.
Bergeron put the final nail into Buffalo's season in the shootout. The Sabres headed to the Garden dressing room on the short end again.
"We're going home, and we're not going to be playing hockey," Pominville said. "We all want to be playing."