The Buffalo Sabres have scored over 12,600 goals since entering the NHL in 1970. But there are some goals that are so etched into franchise history that they stand out above all the others. Compiled here are the best of the best. Note: They are not ranked in any particular order of importance.
Brad May’s Overtime Series-Clinching Goal
Game 4 of the 1993 Adams Division Semifinals
“May Day! May Day! May Day! May Day!” – Rick Jeanneret
Rick Jeanneret’s call of Brad May’s legendary goal is easily one of the most-well-known goals in Sabres’ history. And that’s not just because of RJ. The goal itself helped the Sabres sweep the Bruins and advance past the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 1982-83. Of the five straight years of losing in the Division Semifinals, three were at the hands of the Bruins. Revenge tasted delicious this night.
After taking a pass from Pat LaFontaine who was lying on the ice after being tripped, May raced across the blue line, then turned Hall-of-Fame defenseman Ray Bourque inside out by pulling the puck to his forehand. With Andy Moog playing the shot, May held on to the puck, skated around him and flipped it into a wide-open net.
For a bruising winger known more for his fists and hard hits than his stickhandling, it was a career-defining goal-scorer’s goal for the unlikely hero. Adding to the goal’s lore, minutes before the goal, May was caught on camera kissing his stick before a faceoff.
Bourque later said that May had hit him at every opportunity in the series, in every game, in every zone. Bourque was sure that May was just going to try to hit him yet again so he braced for contact. He was stunned when May put the puck through him; something he would expect to be tried in practice, but never a game.
Jason Pominville’s Overtime Series-Clinching Goal
Game 5 of the 2006 Eastern Conference Semifinals
“Now, do you believe? Now, do you believe? These guys are good! Scary good!” – Rick Jeanneret
It’s not often that a shorthanded overtime goal wins it all. Pominville’s goal at two minutes 26 seconds into the extra period gave the Sabres a 3-2 win, and a 4-games-to-1 series win over the top-seeded Ottawa Senators. All five games were decided by one goal in the series, which featured a tie score or a one-goal lead for all but 1:40 of total play.
This team, comprised of many up-and-coming players, posted its first of back-to-back 50-win seasons. Despite their success, five of their 24 losses were to the high-powered Senators. Fortunately, none of it carried over to the playoffs.
Jay McKee was in the penalty box for tripping Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson 1:44 into overtime.
After a broken play in the Sabres end, Pominville gathered the puck just before his own blue line and chose to skate it out rather than flip it down the length of the ice. He burst down the left side and quickly noted Alfredsson–a Sens forward–was playing defense. He took advantage of the mismatch, bursting around him then cutting in front of goalie Ray Emery to tuck the puck past the Ottawa rookie and give Buffalo its third overtime winner of the series.
“Every game was tight,” said Sabres Coach Lindy Ruff. “Every game could have gone either way. There wasn’t a lot of relaxation behind the bench, so when that goal went in all that pent-up tension was gone in about 30 seconds.”
Jason Woolley’s Game-Winning Goal
Game 1 of the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals
“The shot heard round the world.” – Rick Jeanneret
The Sabres 1998-99 roster was a collection of hard-working guys with mediocre talent. It was a team that endeared themselves to the blue-collar, lunch-pail mentality of Western New Yorker fans. They finished seventh in the East with 91 points, but swept the second-seeded Sens in the first round and then went on to beat Boston in six games and Toronto in five. They entered the Stanley Cup Final for only the second time in their history, heavy underdogs to the Dallas Stars who had an NHL-leading 114 points in the regular season. Dominik Hasek was the lone all-star, playing some of the best goaltending in league history.
The Sabres trailed for most of the game after Dallas’s Brett Hull scored in the first period. The Sabres Stu Barnes scored midway through the third period to tie it up. With roughly five minutes to go in regulation, the Sabres Wayne Primeau put the Sabres ahead, 2-1. With Ed Belfour on the bench for a sixth attacker, Jere Lehtinen tied the game with only 49 seconds remaining in regulation, sending it to overtime.
Curtis Brown fed defenseman Jason Woolley who pinched in from the blue line unchecked and shovel shot a one-timer between Ed Belfour’s pads for a 3-2 Sabres victory in Dallas. The goal at 15 minutes, 30 seconds into overtime forever etched his name in Sabres lore. It was the team’s first victory in Stanley Cup Final action in 24 years.
In the video, Dominik Hasek flopped to the ice, in exhaustion. He later said he was cramping badly and didn’t have the energy to skate to the other end of the ice to celebrate.
“I said, ‘No more,’ and I fell on the ice,” said Hasek. “I don’t remember ever having been so tired during the game.”
Stu Barnes’ Overtime-Winning Goal
Game 5 of the 2001 Eastern Conference Semifinal
“Absolute bullet from Stuuuuuuuuuuu Barnes!” – Rick Jeanneret
With the game tied 2-2, Stu Barnes capped Buffalo’s three-goal comeback, rifling in a shot 8:34 into overtime to give the Sabres a 3-2 win over the Penguins.
J.P. Dumont outworked Pittsburgh defender Bob Boughner for a loose puck just inside the Pittsburgh zone. He batted it back to Barnes, who was just crossing the blue line. Without stopping, Barnes wound up and unleashed a rocket over Johan Hedberg’s left shoulder from roughly 40 feet out. It struck the crossbar and dropped down into the goal.
“For us, I don’t feel like we’ve accomplished anything yet,” said Barnes, who was acquired by the Sabres from the Penguins in 1999. “We feel that this is a dangerous team we’re playing. They’ve got so many guys that can score goals that we’re going to have to play a lot better than we did tonight.”
Dave Hannan’s Game-Winning Goal
Game 6 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
“And this series is going back to where Jimmy Hoffa is! Back to the meadowlands in New Jersey!” – Rick Jeanneret
It was nearly two in the morning when Dave Hannan flipped a backhand past Marty Brodeur in quadruple overtime to give the Sabres an epic 1-0 win. The official time was five minutes and 43 seconds of the fourth overtime period.
It’s easily the most impressive goaltending performance The Memorial Auditorium has ever seen as the goal broke an incredible marathon shutout string by both goalies. With no disrespect to Brodeur, Hasek stood on his head in the game, making 70 saves to keep his team from being eliminated.
The legacy of Hannan’s goal is far more enduring than the outcome. The Sabres won the game, but eventually lost Game 7 and the Devils advanced.
Hannan scooped up a loose puck in the slot and with Brodeur lying on the ice, backhanded a shot into the open net. After scoring, he raced to center ice and fell to his knees, sliding another 50 feet before being mobbed by his teammates.
Derek Plante’s Overtime Series-Clinching Goal
Game 7 of the 1997 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal
“Are you ready Legion of Doom? Here come the Buffalo Sabres!” – Rick Jeanneret
This was the first-ever playoff series between the Ottawa Senators and Buffalo Sabres. In Game 6, the Sabres won 3-0 victory over the Senators at Corel Centre forcing a game seven.
After 60 minutes of play, the teams were tied, 2-2. It was a matchup of goalies from the year’s prior Calder Cup Final: Ron Tugnutt vs. Steve Shields. Hasek was sidelined with a knee injury that had kept him out since Game 3 of the series.
Plante picked up a turnover by the Senators Matt Duschene, skated into the zone and rifled a slapshot from the right faceoff circle that beat Ron Tugnutt on his glove side. Tugnutt stopped most of it, but the puck bounced off his glove and trickled into the net. He turned around in time to see it barely have enough momentum to cross the goal line.
The goal, scored 5 minutes 24 seconds into overtime, lifted the Sabres to a 3-2 victory.
“’Stanley Cup playoffs, game-winning goal, seventh game,”’ said Plante. ‘”You can’t score a bigger goal unless you win the Stanley Cup. It’s a great time for me.”
Rene Robert’s Game-Winning Goal
Game 3 of the 1975 Stanley Cup Final
“And the Sabres win it again in overtime!” – Rick Jeanneret
The French Connection was a line like no other. Gilbert Perreault centered for Rick Martin and Rene Robert. They were an offensive juggernaut throughout much of the 1970s. One of their shining moments came during the 1974-75 season, one in which they tied for the NHL lead in points with 113.
After the getting by the Chicago Blackhawks and Montreal Canadiens, the Sabres made plans for their first-ever Stanley Cup Final appearance. Their foe: the Philadelphia Flyers.
That spring, unusually high temperatures in Buffalo greeted Game 3. It will forever be known as the “Fog Game,” as play had to be stopped a dozen times due to the thick conditions. During the stoppages, players would all get out and skate to try to stir the fog up and away. Despite not being able to see much, fans in The Aud that night knew they were a part of one of the most memorable yet bizarre nights in NHL history. It even featured Jim Lorentz killing a bat in mid-air with his stick. But the real memory was Robert’s overtime goal.
The entire game was played with a blanket of thick fog above the ice. Given the limited visibility, passes were near impossible and goaltenders could hardly see the puck until it was practically in front of them.
With the game deadlocked at 4 apiece after regulation, the game headed to overtime.
Martin sent the puck up to Perreault who dished it to the far corner to where Robert was headed. Robert picked up the loose puck and shot it from a near-impossible angle at Flyers’ goalie Bernie Parent, who never saw it.
“It as a perfect shot. I could try [the shot] a thousand times over and probably would never score,” said Robert. “It was just meant to be that night.”
Chris Drury’s Game-Tying Goal
Game 5 of the 2007 Eastern Conference Semifinal
“Who else? Who else?” – Rick Jeanneret
Though this Presidents’ Trophy-winning Sabres eventually lost to the Ottawa Senators, Buffalo’s Northeast Division-rival, this team was an exciting, never-say-die group that was beyond fun to watch.
The Sabres were down 1-0 with 12.8 seconds left in regulation. They had outplayed the Blue Shirts for most of the game. Henrik Lundqvist, “The King” had already stopped the Sabres’ first 36 shots and was looking for a shutout and a commanding three-games-to-two lead to bring back to Madison Square Garden.
Chris Drury and Michael Nylander came to the circle to Lundqvist’s left for a faceoff.
After sending the puck to the corner off the faceoff, Drury, also rightfully known as “Captain Clutch,” collected a rebound and fired a shot through a maze of players that found the back of the net with just 7.7 seconds left on the clock to tie it up. The goal sent the sellout crowd into hysterics. They erupted both inside and outside the arena in the plaza.
“The puck can find him [Drury]. He has a knack for being in the right place at the right time,” said Sabres coach Lindy Ruff. “He doesn’t miss many of those opportunities.”
Tim Connolly jumped on Drury’s back. It was as real as it was symbolic—Drury had been carrying this team, almost single-handedly all year.
“You don’t see scoring like that, when there’s 17 seconds and a faceoff in their end and score a goal in 10 seconds, especially after you’ve been stymied the whole game,” Sabres defenseman Brian Campbell said. “That building was loud.”
Maxim Afinogenov’s Overtime-Winning Goal
Game 5 of the 2007 Eastern Conference Semifinal
“Maxim Afinogenov blows it by Lundqvist!” – Rick Jeanneret
After Drury’s game-tying goal, the Sabres went into their locker room on a high, while the Rangers skated into theirs completely deflated and disappointed. Momentum was clearly with Buffalo.
The Sabres killed off an early penalty to Drury in overtime, then got a power play of their own. And they didn’t waste it.
Deliriousness overcame Buffalo just 11 seconds into the man-advantage. That’s when Afinogenov fired a shot from just inside the Sabres’ blue line that bounced off Rangers’ forward Jed Ortmeyer’s stick and into the net, going between Lundqvist’s pads for the game winner.
Thunderous cheers filled the arena as the speedy Russian raced to center ice and dove face first, celebrating with the pure joy and excitement of a child. At that moment, all Sabres fans were Maxim Afinogenov.
Ironically, Afinogenov had been benched for the previous game but was put back into the lineup in an attempt to jump-start the Sabres’ offense by then coach Lindy Ruff. It worked.
Had the Rangers won in overtime, they would’ve had the chance to close out the series in New York. Over the course of NHL playoff history, a team that wins Game Five in a series that was tied, advances to the next round 80 percent of the time. As it was, the Sabres eliminated the Rangers in six games.
Gilbert Perreault’s 500th Goal
No Sabres list would be complete without Gilbert Perreault. Here’s his milestone 500th goal from March 9, 1986 against the New Jersey Devils. Bert took a pass from Mike Foligno and redirected the puck past Alain Chevrier. The Sabres won 4-3 and Perreault became only the 12th player in NHL history to score 500 goals.
Tyler Ennis’ Dipsy Doodle Goal
Ennis’ no-look backhand shot beating Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price is one the slickest goals ever seen. His speed and incredible athleticism were on full display.
Maxim Afinogenov’s Sick Mitts Goal
When RJ screams, “Holy mackerel, roll the highlight film!” he’s not kidding. This insane goal shows off Afinogenov’s sick hands and concentration as he pulls off a 360 swivel, backhand-to-forehand at full speed, then lights the lamp.
Danny Gare’s Overtime-Winning Goal
Danny Gare’s rookie season in 1974-75 was pretty special. He scored 31 goals and added 32 assists. In the playoffs, that year, he added seven goals and six assists. His overtime goal in Game 1 of the Semifinals lifted the Sabres to a 6-5 victory over the Montreal Canadiens.
Danny Briere’s Double Overtime-Thrilling Goal
Jochen Hecht dished a sweet cross-ice pass that Danny Briere redirected past Robert Esche’s glove and into the net, giving the Sabres a victory in double overtime of Game 1 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Quarterfinals.
Jeff has been covering the NHL for over a decade for various sites. He’s been with The Hockey Writers as a lead Sabres writer three years, while also writing a satire column called “Off the Crossbar.”