by Amy Moritz
Welcome to the new era in Buffalo Sabres history. One that has a heavy dose of its past intertwined.
The crowd at First Niagara Center was loud, energetic and filled with anticipation as the Buffalo Sabres took to the ice for their game with the Toronto Maple Leafs. When Ted Nolan emerged from the tunnel and took his spot behind the bench, the cheers were solid and sustained.
In their pregame montage, the arena went dark with spotlights on Pat LaFontaine's retired jersey and the 1997 Northeast Division Championship banner, won under Nolan's previous coaching stint with the franchise. Classic calls of LaFontaine goals echoed through the arena followed by snippets from Monday's press conference announcing LaFontaine as president of hockey operations and Nolan as interim head coach.
While there were a healthy number of LaFontaine jerseys, the crowd was dominated by Maple Leafs sweaters with chants of "Go Leafs Go" greeted by boos.
The Sabres played welcome back videos for Nolan and LaFontaine during broadcast media timeouts in the first period. They showed Jean Knox in attendance at the game after the Nolan tribute and then showed LaFontaine from his seat in the press box. Both received raucous cheers.
The Sabres started their top line of Matt Moulson, Cody Hodgson and Drew Stafford along with the defensive pairing of Henrik Tallinder and Tyler Myers.
Ryan Miller got the start in goal.
Buffalo also got the first power play of the game and 6:30 into the first period held a 5-0 lead in shots on goal.