The sound of Dominik Hasek's stick slapping the ice resonated into the rafters of HSBC Arena. He was extra feisty, constantly pushing his teammates for everything they had.
The Buffalo Sabres' goaltender was resolute. They had to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday afternoon.
Even when the Sabres led 2-0, then 4-1, then 5-2.
Thwack. Thwack. Thwack.
The Dominator knows his team well. Despite a three-goal lead deep into the third period, the Sabres lost focus. A couple of scary injuries preceded two Lightning short-handed goals, and the Sabres had to hold on for a 5-4 victory in front of a sold-out matinee house.
"I knew it was a big game for us," Hasek said. "We needed these two points, and at the end of the day we made it. But we made so many careless plays. Against better teams you don't win the game if you do that."
The Sabres, coming off a 7-3 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes on Friday, turned in another shaky defensive effort but overcame it with one of their better offensive outings of the season.
They scored three power-play goals, including two from Dave Andreychuk. Miroslav Satan scored the other on a pass from Andreychuk.
"The power play made some nice plays, could have scored probably a couple more goals but moved the puck well and got some shots from the point, which we haven't been getting," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said.
Added Satan: "The power play probably won the game."
And it almost lost the game.
The Sabres apparently had some power to spare, and two turnovers late in the game led to short-handed goals by Nils Ekman and Todd Warriner in a span of 25 seconds, cutting their lead to one with 3:32 to play.
"It should not happen," Hasek said of the giveaways. "I do not understand. There's no excuse. Maybe you do this against Tampa we still can win the game. But if we play against a better team, we don't win."
There actually was an excuse: The Lightning was doing some thwacking of its own.
The penalty that put Buffalo on that costly power play was a brutal shoulder check by Grant Ledyard into Vaclav Varada. The blow sent Varada backward, and the back of his head hit the ice first. Varada was knocked out.
"We made two mistakes pressing to get to six," Ruff said. "We should have been a little more cautious. . . . When you see a hit like that you want to take advantage of the penalty. You want to make them pay for it. You're fired up on the bench, so we went after it and made a mistake."
Making Varada's injury even more frightful was that mere minutes earlier defenseman Jason Woolley had been helped off the ice after a check from Ben Clymer. Woolley's knee turned out to be fine, but the Sabres didn't know that at the time.
"It was embarrassing," defenseman Alexei Zhitnik said of the Sabres' lost composure. "The last five or six minutes was embarrassing for everybody."
Most of the Sabres' first 55 minutes, however, were impressive.
They played nearly perfect in the first period and took a 2-0 lead behind the play of a couple of 1,200-point club members. Andreychuk struck first at 2:48, and Doug Gilmour scored just his second goal in 29 games at 14:27.
The Sabres outshot the Lightning, 15-6, in the first with five of the Lightning's shots coming in a one-minute stretch midway through the period. The sixth shot was the result of a bad Varada pass that was corralled by Ryan Johnson and converted into an unassisted bullet.
"You look at the game as a whole, you're standing there just loving the way your team plays for the first 19:54 until you give the puck away in the neutral zone," Ruff said.
Buffalo regained momentum in the second period with two goals in 10 seconds. Satan netted his 23rd goal at 10:59. Then Vladimir Tsyplakov, returning from a strained rib muscle, made the score 4-1 after a turnover by Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier.
Annoyed Lightning goaltender Kevin Weekes turned his stick into tooth picks 15 seconds later when teammate Jassen Cullimore took a holding penalty, giving the Sabres their sixth power play with 28:36 still to play.
"Sometimes I get frustrated because we didn't come out and play the game like we should have from the start," said Weekes, who faced 37 shots.
"That's not aggression when you do some of the things we did tonight. It's silly, and we have to be responsible for our actions out there."
Andreychuk rounded out the Sabres' scoring with his 15th goal at 7:51 of the third period.