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Sabres gift-wrap a game<br> Terrible start leads to frustrating loss

Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau has caused quite a stir in the hockey world the last week for his wildly profane dressing room tirade aired on HBO's "2 4/7 " that was filmed during a recent game against the Florida Panthers.

Too bad the HBO cameras weren't in HSBC Arena on Thursday night. The Buffalo Sabres could have provided them plenty of footage during their troubling 4-3 loss to the Panthers, a game that saw them wipe out a 3-0 deficit but then lose anyway despite a 48-29 advantage in shots on goal.

And the news gets even worse for a Buffalo team that heads into the Christmas break mired in 12th place in the Eastern Conference: Leading scorer Derek Roy will likely be out for the longterm after suffering an apparent left knee injury early in the first period when he was crunched along the boards by Florida defenseman Dmitry Kulikov.

"We'll know more [today] but it looks serious," said a somber coach Lindy Ruff.

Just prior to Ruff's postgame meeting with reporters, Roy was seen leaving the building walking slowly on crutches with what appeared to be a large wrap on the knee under his pants.

Florida won the game on Jason Garrison's goal at 14:53 of the third period. It came on a two-on-one break after Tyler Myers was tripped in the Panthers' zone by Stephen Weiss trying to execute a spin move.

A similar move by Myers created Jordan Leopold's second goal of the game in the second period, forging a 3-3 tie. This time, it turned into disaster.

"I don't understand why that wasn't called," Myers said, his lips quivering with anger. "I got a stick to the leg, he takes me down and they go down and score. Pretty upsetting. I had him beaten. He takes me down with a trip. If he doesn't take me down, it's a scoring chance for us. I'm pretty upset about that."

Myers charged after referee Bill McCreary after the play and got no satisfaction of any explanation.

"It was a call we could have got easily," Ruff said. "He got slashed on the leg that was up in the air, it caught his other leg and he went down."

The missed call aside, this game was lost in the first period as a parade of Buffalo penalties led to three Florida goals. The Sabres trailed the Panthers, 4-0, after one last week in Sunrise en route to a 6-2 loss. It was more of the same here with silly penalties and sloppy defensive zone coverage conspiring to put the Sabres in a big hole.

Ruff did some paint-peeling of his own in the direction of his players during the first intermission to try to turn around a point-of-absurdity moment for his team against the pesky Panthers.

"I got my say after the first period for a period of time," Ruff said. "But even what's more important after you walk out of the room is what they say to each other. No one was happy. I wasn't happy."

"We played two games against them and didn't show up in two first periods," Leopold said. "No excuse for that to happen at home."

The Sabres suddenly awoke with purpose and passion after Ruff's locker-room chat. They scored three goals and outshot the Panthers, 20-2, in the second period. Leopold sandwiched his tallies around a Jason Pominville power-play goal and the sellout crowd of 18,690 was as lively as it's been at any point this season.

It was a stark contrast to the way the game started as the Panthers got 13 of the first 16 shots. Chris Higgins got two of the goals after entering the game with just three on the season.

"We can be frustrated but we lost the game in the first period," Leopold said. "We didn't lose it in the third or anywhere else. We didn't have it in the first and there's absolutely no excuse.

"We have a responsibility as professional players to show up every night and we didn't do that in the first."

e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com

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