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Sabres Central

Woolley Bullies Panthers
By Rick Anderson
April 3, 2001

The Buffalo Sabres completed a successful mini-Florida vacation by beating the Florida Panthers 5-3 Monday night in Miami. After beating the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Panthers on successive nights, the Sabres moved into fourth place temporarily by one point over the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers have a game in hand.

The Sabres' Jay McKee goes after Panthers' Marcus Nilson in first period action as the Sabres beat the Panthers 5-3.
[AP Photo/ Steve Mitchell]

Jason Woolley, had one of his best games in a long time, offensively at least. He had two goals and an assist to help the Sabres conclude their final road game of the regular season. In fact, the Sabres blueliners have been contributing to the Sabres offense a lot recently. Five of the Sabres last 11 goals have come at the hands of one of the defensemen.

. "I was really enjoying myself out there, but the most important thing is the win and getting the two points," said Woolley.

"They're on a roll," said Sabres coach Lindy Ruff about his suddenly offensive defensemen. "They should get back pay from the forwards."

The Sabres other three goals did come from forwards Chris Gratton, Erik Rasmussen and Curtis Brown. The Sabres offense is in fact coming into its own just in time for the playoffs. They have scored 13 goals in their last 3 games. The defense, meanwhile, continues to lead the league with the best goals against.

Woolley Bully

Woolley had a hand in getting the Sabres up 2-0 in the first period. First, he set up Erik Rasmussen when he used a skate to direct the puck over the Rasmussen, who put it behind Roberto Luongo. That goal came 5:35 into the first period. Almost exactly 5 minutes later, Woolley let go a shot from the left faceoff circle during a powerplay to give the Sabres a 2-0 lead. But that lead did not last long as Joey Tetarenko got in alone to Dominik Hasek's left and he converted a pass from Len Barrie to cut the lead in half less than a minute after Woolley's first goal.

In the second period, the Sabres were killing off a penalty when Miroslav Satan stole the puck and raced down the right side on Luongo. Curtis Brown was able to scoop up Satan's rebound and put the Sabres up 3-1. Denis Shvidki cut that lead to 3-2 when he scored at the 8:58 mark. Three minutes later, Woolley put in a rebound of Dmitri Kalinin's shot as Luongo was out of position.

"You had one defenseman shooting it," described Ruff. "It's not very often that the other defenseman gets the rebound and scores, but that's part of Jason's game."

The Panthers made it a game once again 15:28 into 3rd period when Pavel Bure was able to get the puck over to Robert Svehla, who slammed it past Hasek. The Panthers pulled Luongo late in the game in an attempt to tie it up, but the Sabres were able to clear it out of their zone. Varada went down the right side and shot the puck wide of the empty net, but Gratton picked up the rebound off the back boards and slam it home into the empty net to finish off the Panthers for good.

The Sabres' remaining 3 games are all at home. They take on the Boston Bruins Wednesday, a game that is crucial for the Bruins, who are just holding onto the eighth and final playoff seed in the East over the Carolina Hurricanes. Friday, the Sabres host the Washington Capitals and Sunday, conclude the regular season against the Flyers in a 3 PM start. That game could quite possible determine the home ice advantage in a Sabres/Flyers playoff series.

Sabres Talk

Woolley described what Ruff has been telling the defense to do the past 3 years, and that is to pinch in and help with the offense.

"Sometimes you're going to need some scoring from the back end,"said Woooley. "Teams a lot of times bear down on our forwards, and out of nowhere have to come the defensemen. You can't depend on the defense to score every night, but when we can chip in it's awesome."

Ruff is pleased with the offensive help coming from his blueliners.

"Our defense has been very active, and if they continue to join and help out offensively it's going to help us," described Ruff.

Rob Ray brought up the fact that the Sabres seem to be more well-rounded this year.

"We're not depending on one guy like we did last year," mentioned Rob Ray. "I think a lot of times we'd look at Miro to score the goals. But we've got a wide variety of guys who can score goals, and we showed that tonight. We need those type of guys going."

Ray then projected his thought to the remaining games this week.

"This week is going to be a really big test," Ray reflected. "I think this week is the week that's going to determine what we've got in here."

"We knew if we came down here and won both games we'd put ourselves in a good position going home," Ruff said.

Panthers coach Duane Sutter was impressed with the Sabres play.

"It's been a struggle recently, but hey, Buffalo is the best team in the league since the All-Star break,"Sutter said. "We're shuffling lines around. It's hard to get any chemistry."

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