Site hosted by Build your free website today!
Sabres Central

Time is running out on the Sabres as they squander a point against Isles
By Rick Anderson
April 4, 2002

Islanders' Alexei Yashin attempts to redirect the shot past Martin Biron as James Patrick tries to intervene during first period action between the Sabres and Islanders. The two teams played to a 1-1 draw.
[AP Photo/David Duprey]

The Buffalo Sabres just couldn’t get the puck past Chris Osgood. Ever since scoring 5 on him in Long Island a few weeks ago, Osgood has been a stonewall in front of the New York Islander cage, stopping almost everything thrown at him. That is what he did Wednesday night in Buffalo’s HSBC Arena as the Sabres and Isles played to a 1-1 draw.

Osgood not only saved the day by making 34 saves on the night, but he also stayed in the game after being knocked senseless when Alexei Zhitnik was hauled down while charging in on Osgood in overtime. As Zhitnik fell, his skate clipped Osgood’s helmet and he landed on top of the goalie. Osgood was down on the ice for several minutes and appeared as if he would have to be replaced by backup Garth Snow in the most critical part of the game. But Osgood not only stuck it out but made an incredible save on Maxim Afinogenov, who snapped a shot that Osgood snared with just 19 ticks left on the clock. The last time these two teams faced each other, Osgood shutout the Sabres.

The only Sabre to get the rubber past Osgood in the last two times the Sabres faced him was Curtis Brown, and he just squeezed his goal in before the time ran out in the first period. Brown slipped the puck to past Osgood with only 7.6 seconds left in the period when he got a rebound of a Tim Connolly shot.

On the opposite end of the ice, Sabres goalie Martin Biron was also playing a stellar game. Biron had 26 saves and had to be on his toes in the last two periods, stopping 19 shots. He also had help from the post and defenseman Dmitri Kalinin in keeping the Isles off the board. With 11:35 remaining in regulation, Kalinin dove on a loose puck that was headed for the net.

"Dmitri made a huge play," related Biron. "I had no idea where the puck was, and when you get those bounces you hope maybe it's going to stay 1-0 and that's all their going to get. But they just kept on going."

The Isles finally got the tying goal when Shawn Bates was able to get a shot past a helpless Biron after getting a great pass from Mark Parrish. Bates was in the slot area and defenseman Zhitnik was unable to take him out until after he scored from point-blank range. Zhitnik took Bates out with a stick across his face, causing Bates to get stitched up right after scoring. Bates went right back out for more when the bleeding was stopped.

Although Zhitnik should have received a 4-minute penalty for drawing blood, Bates was willing to sacrifice his blood for the tying goal.

"I'll take the goal," admitted Bates, who was celebrating his 27th birthday. "I don't know if it was just a reaction or he was just going for the puck. He just hit me in the face. It's part of the game."

Chris Gratton was bitterly disappointed about giving up a tying goal with just 6:10 remaining in regulation.

"To give that goal up late in the third period, it was disappointing," said Gratton. "But it's our job to rebound and get refocused. It does take a little bit of steam out of you."

The Sabres, who only have 5 games left, failed to gain as much as needed to get back into the playoff race. Time is not the only factor going against the Sabres in their desperate drive. The fact that their competition for the 8th and final playoff spot are up by 4 points and have easier schedules may prevent the Sabres from reaching their goal. The Washington Capitals beat Tampa Bay Wednesday, moving into a tie with the idle Montreal Canadiens for the final playoff spot.

Michael Peca, the former Sabres captain, made his second appearance to Buffalo since being traded to the Isles last summer. Once again, the fans booed him every time he touched the puck. He didn’t care as his Isles escaped with 3 out of a possible 4 points in those two contests.

Peca was impressed with Bates’ toughness.

"He's showing the ability to sacrifice himself in tough areas to score goals," lauded Peca. "Nowadays in a game, you rarely score from the outside. It's all done in front of the net and he's got a knack of getting there."

Sabres Talk

While the odds are stacked against the Sabres in making the playoffs, the Sabres are trying to put a positive spin on the situation.

"It's pretty quiet in here, but we're still positive," Gratton said. "We're still upbeat, and we're still in this thing. By no means are we out of the playoff race. Obviously, we have to play excellent hockey here down the stretch, but right now we need all the wins we can get."

Brown tried to project his positive thinking to the younger players in the locker room.

"Chins up," said Brown. "We have to keep focused on what's ahead of us and not what's behind us. You've got to move on and take the good things. This was a big point against a good hockey club and now we've got to get focused for Florida We just have to keep on marching."

The talkative Biron echoed Brown’s thought.

"This time of year, when you don't get the two points, it feels like you're missing something," said Biron. "Early in the season, you feel a tie is a tie. But right now, it's not what we need."

The Sabres were saying all the right words, no one was giving up.

"I think we could have gotten the two points," chimed in defenseman Rhett Warrener. "We didn't, but I can't say it wasn't because we didn't try. We're not happy we didn't get the two points. We're not content. We're not satisfied. But we're not going to harp and say that we're no good. The effort was there."

Sabres coach Lindy Ruff knows his work is cut out for him after not getting the two points they desperately needed.

"It's tough when you only get one," Ruff said. "We wanted two and got one. For the most part I thought it was a game we could have had."

With J.P. Dumont and Brian Campbell both out with shoulder injures, to go along with the continued absence of captain Stu Barnes, the Sabres were without players who could score.

"You lose offensive guys, I don't think your scoring's going to go up," admitted Ruff. "We need to play a very sound game. I thought we came out very aggressive and did a lot of pinching."


Copyright © 2002 Sabres Central, all rights reserved