Suddenly, a massive goal drought was pretty insignificant in Jason Pominville's world.
One of several Sabres who live near the Flight 3407 disaster scene in Clarence Center, Pominville got the tying goal everyone in Western New York was pleading for with just 3.9 seconds left Friday night. It set the stage for Buffalo's 6-5 shootout win over the San Jose Sharks -- and snapped Pominville's 17-game string without a goal.
"To be able to play a sport we like on a day like today is pretty special for us and for the city," Pominville said. "But it's definitely tough. I live really close to there, and [goaltender] Patty Lalime gave me a call last night in panic about it. It's basically a minute away from where we all live. It's tough."
Pominville tipped home Craig Rivet's shot from the right point to pull Buffalo into a 5-5 tie and prevent a crusher of a loss in a game the Sabres twice led by three goals.
The sellout crowd erupted in a prolonged ovation not seen since the 2007 playoffs.
"It was so loud and emotional in here," Pominville said. "We know how important a game this was for our city. It's about the community, and we were fortunate to stick with it and get a big win for them."
"We said this morning we're going to play for the City of Buffalo and we came out and put a great effort in," said center Derek Roy. "In times like these where people rally behind a local team, we came out strong. Then we had that emotion at the end, which was great."
Pominville understood the big picture of the night far overshadowed his own personal struggles on the ice. But the goal was huge for his team and huge for the Sabres sniper -- who had not scored since Jan. 1 in Toronto.
"[Rivet] just walked into it, really teed it up," Pominville said. "I got a piece of it and when it went in, it was a big relief for me. I know I'm capable of putting the puck in the net. It's a matter of that confidence around the net."
In the wake of the crash, the Sabres had brief discussions with the NHL about postponing the game but decided to play on. Minority owner Larry Quinn took a call early in the day from NHL Vice President Bill Daly to discuss the situation.
"[Daly] first asked me if any team members, team personnel or family were involved," Quinn said. "I told him I didn't know but I was pretty sure there weren't. Then I had a conversation with [General Manager Darcy Regier] to take the pulse of the team and see what he thought. We thought it was best that we play the game.
"I explained to Bill that the plane crash was in an area where a lot of our people live. Once we made sure that nobody was directly affected on the team and their families [were OK], we felt it was best for the community to play."
Quinn said he went to bed Thursday night and did not hear of the crash until his 30-year-old daughter, Molly Decker, called him at 5 a.m. Friday. She lives in New Jersey and Quinn said she regularly takes the same Continental flight.
"Although I didn't know anyone on the plane, it really did strike home with me," Quinn said.
Just as the Sabres were, the Sharks were troubled by the images of the Continental crash. And they were spooked a little more because they had trouble getting out of Pittsburgh on Wednesday. Their flight was canceled and they waited out winds that gusted to 92 mph before finally leaving Thursday.
"It was a little nervewracking at times," said ex-Sabre Mike Grier. "The plane was shaking a little bit but the pilots did a good job with everything and it turned out all right."
Teppo Numminen missed the second half of Wednesday's game against Ottawa with a migraine headache but returned Friday. Andrej Sekera was back for the first time since suffering a high ankle sprain Jan. 14 at Chicago. Nathan Paetsch and Andrew Peters were the scratches.
The Sabres improved to 12-1 all time at home against San Jose. The Sharks had not been here since their lone win, a 5-0 blanking Dec. 2, 2005 that was the debut for Joe Thornton after he was acquired in a trade from Boston. . . . The Sharks fell to 1-1-4 in their last six games. . . . Buffalo is 7-3 in shootouts this season. . . . Roy's goal was the 100th of his career, the 28th Sabre to reach that mark.