3MI’s 40 for 40: Moonlight Skudra
Welcome to 3rd Man In’s “4o for 40″. Yes, we’re ripping off ESPN, and no, I don’t care. Over the course of this season, 3MI will break down 40 moments from the first 40 years in Sabres history, some unlikely to be covered by other retrospectives but yet still interesting moments in the franchise timeline. This is installment #2, looking at the extensive Sabres career of Peter Skudra.
Hockey fans who remember what life was like prior to the lockout may remember this name. If you’re a Sabres fan, odds are you might not even remember this name.
Peter (real name Pēteris) Skudra was a Latvian goaltender who bounced around the NHL, playing 146 games between 1997-2003 for the Penguins, Canucks, Bruins… and Buffalo Sabres. The man from Riga claims the shortest playing career in Sabres uniform in franchise history.
The Sabres entered the 2000-01 season with an interesting goaltending situation. After a stellar rookie season, Martin Biron was holding out in a contract dispute, leaving Mika Noronen as a backup to Dominik Hasek. When Hasek went down with a knee injury during the season opener, the Sabres moved quickly, claiming Skudra off of waivers.
The Sabres picked up Peter Skudra off waivers to back up Noronen while Hasek is on the injured reserve. “I’m glad to be part of this team. It’s a great bunch of guys and a great organization,” said the goaltender. Skudra spent last season with the Pittsburgh Penguins appearing in 20 games compiling a record of 5-7-3 with one shutout and a GAA of 3.12. “I like the fact that he has NHL experience. He had one real good year there (Pittsburgh) and has a winning record in the league, there’s nothing like experience,” said coach Lindy Ruff of Skudra.
Hasek returned the following game, allowing the Sabres to send Noronen down to Rochester to be the Amerks’ starter. That left the new guy to backup the best goaltender in franchise history. Dom was the kind of guy who could play every night, so it’s not a shock that Skudra never got a start with the team.
But on a Friday night in October 2000, with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in town, Chris Gratton made a big play. With just about seven seconds left, and trailing by one, Gratton scored to send the game to overtime tied at 2-2. Thanks to that goal, and a little strategy by Lindy Ruff, it was Skudra’s time to shine.
From Sabres.com’s game recap:
After the teams went into overtime, Anaheim went on a 4 on 3 when Jay McKee was sent off for yanking down Selanne only 22 seconds after the face-off. Stu Barnes and Curtis Brown then did an outstanding job of holding back the Ducks and Hasek made a great save to keep Anaheim from winning it’s third straight road game.
Then Buffalo played with the man advantage and Lindy Ruff made a bold move with the face-off in the Anaheim zone. He had taken a timeout earlier so to give Gilmour and Gratton a little rest, he replaced Hasek in goal with Petr Skudra. The move paid off as Gilmour and Gratton kept the puck in the Anaheim zone. On the next stoppage of play Hasek returned to his position.
Here’s the boxscore from the game, which ended in a 2-2 tie.
The 27 seconds he saw the Ducks were the only 27 seconds he’d see the ice for the franchise. About two weeks later, Biron signed a multi-year deal with the team, and on November 10, the Sabres waived Skudra. He was claimed by Boston, ending his Sabres tenure.
Peter would go on to play 71 more NHL games, as well as make two playoff appearances the following season. He finished his career in Russia.
You can fact check it in your Sabres media guide, but despite the fact you may not even find it, it happened. Looking through media guides between now and 2002, references are sketchy. Most don’t even list Skudra among goaltenders, or the all-time player register. The most consistent placement of his name is among the all-time jersey numbers, under #34, right between Jeff Jillson and Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre. One would be stunned at such an oversight if it weren’t for the fact that the Sabres information department is pretty much a joke when it comes to details like this.
The only real solid piece of evidence you’ll find that Skudra was here would be the 2001-2002 team picture. A copy could not be located for this post, but it’s assured that it exists. Skudra sits opposite Hasek in the possibly the only photo you’ll ever see of the Latvian in Buffalo.
Needless to say, Skudra’s statline in Sabres black and red is unique:
1 GP. 0-0-0. 0.00 GAA. 0.000 sv%. 0 SA. 0 saves. 0:27 min.
Don’t see that one every day.