Nice show by Tim Kennedy in his hometown Tuesday night with a goal and a super assist. Nice show from Nathan Gerbe, too -- what little the folks in HSBC Arena saw of him.
The 5-foot-6 Gerbe, the top mighty mite prospect in the Buffalo Sabres' chain, had a goal but also got a game misconduct in the wake of a wild first-period brawl that spiced the Portland Pirates' 4-3 shootout loss to Albany.
The debut in Buffalo of the Sabres' new farm team drew a crowd of 11,144, the most ever for a Portland "home" game. The fans got some full-throated "Let's Go Pirates" chants going in the third period and finally got rewarded with 29.6 seconds left as Zach Tarkir's wrist shot from the right point was tipped in by Kyle Rank to force overtime.
The River Rats won the five-player shootout, 1-0, on Jonathan Paiement's goal. Kennedy was one of five Pirates stopped.
Kennedy fed Gerbe for the game's first goal and scored a pretty one of his own to forge a 2-2 tie at 18:15 of the second period.
The big crowd will mostly remember what happened with 25 seconds left in the first period. It was easily the craziest scene in the arena since Marty Biron, Andrew Peters and ex-Ottawa goalie Ray Emery got it on here nearly two years ago.
It started a few seconds earlier when Gerbe briefly got involved behind the net with Albany's Mike Angelidis. Before the puck was dropped, Mark Mancari pounded Albany's Joe Jensen.
The teams were trying to change before the faceoff when Gerbe, whose motormouth got under the skin of Columbus star Rick Nash during the preseason, suddenly was involved near the Albany bench. A couple River Rats took swings at him from the bench and Gerbe was dragged near the middle of the rink as Albany had six players on the ice while Portland had just three.
Albany defenseman Tim Conboy (6-2, 210) got on top of Gerbe and was pounding him in the face and head with several shots before other Pirates, notably Tyler Bouck, tried to intervene. Gerbe and Angelidis both got game misconducts.
"That's no fun. I came here to play and give the fans a show," Gerbe said. "To go out like that is frustrating. I think its cheap, especially a player who's 5-5 or 5-6. You don't sucker punch someone in the back of the head like that or have someone grab you on the bench like that. In my mind that should be a suspension."
Gerbe, who said he was not told why he was tossed, and Conboy were among several players separated by arena security after the verbiage continued in the dressing room hallway in the first intermission.
"I'm really proud to be a part of the American Hockey League but I'm embarrassed for the league tonight just the way that whole game played out that we put that on display for NHL fans," said Portland coach Kevin Dineen.
"That's what we put on the ice and that's a bad representation of what we do. We're all in the learning stage from coaches to players to officials. For the fans here to see that is a shame. For us to lose a guy like Nathan was a shame."
Prior to all the craziness, Gerbe scored his 20th goal of the season at 3:40 of the first period, beautifully one-timing a cross-ice Kennedy pass.
It was the kind of play Sabres fans hoped they were getting but never saw from Gerbe when the former Boston College star went scoreless in six games with the big club in December. After practice here Tuesday, Gerbe classified his first NHL stint as a failure.
"I was kind of cursed when I was in Buffalo before," he said. "It was good to show the fans I can score."