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Sabres Central

Miscues do in Sabres
By Rick Anderson
April 5, 2001

Two huge giveaways cost the Buffalo Sabres a crucial two points as the Boston Bruins continued their winning ways and won the season series as they beat the Sabres 3-2 Wednesday night at HSBC Arena. Donald Audette and Jason Woolley were the scapegoats as the Sabres failed to pad their slim 4th place lead in the Eastern Conference. Boston won the season series 3 game to 2.

Byron Dafoe sprawls out in the crease to prevent Maxim Afinogenov from scoring. Dafoe made 25 saves in a victorious effort.
[AP Photo/David Duprey]

"It's something you have to love," Bruins coach Mike Keenan said about the consequential victory over the Sabres. "You have to thrive on this. This is certainly interesting. The stakes are high, but not quite as high as some of the games I've been in. I've coached many (playoff) series that have gone seven games."

The Bruins came loaded for bear. The Sabres looked like bulls in a china shop. Buffalo could not get much of any offensive threat going, and when they did, Byron Dafoe did the job in keeping the Sabres off the scoreboard until Doug Gilmour finally broke the ice mid way through the third period.

The Bruins have lost only one game in their last eleven and kept pace with the Carolina Hurricanes, who had beaten the Rangers earlier in the night. Also, by beating the Sabres in Buffalo, they won all three games in HSBC Arena this season.

Costly errors

The key to this game was committing the least amount of errors, thus it was like a playoff game. The Sabres played as if it were a preseason game.

In the second period, Audette committed a mistake that cost the Sabres the game. He coughed up the puck right in front of backup goalie Martin Biron to Andrei Kovalenko, who fed a wide open Mikko Eloranta. Eloranta positioned himself and flipped the puck over Biron's shoulder to get the game winner. It was Eloranta's 11th goal of the season and came 3:52 into 2nd period.

"We are not happy about it. They cost us," said Audette about his miscue. "You make a pass like that in front of the net, you have to make sure no one is there. Obviously, I didn't."

The fans were still coming back to their seats for the third period when another huge mistake gave the Bruins a 2-0 lead. Biron went back to play the puck behind the net and there seemed to be a sort of miscommunication between him and defenseman Woolley. Biron left it for Woolley and the Sabres defenseman passed it right to Brian Rolston, who slammed it over top of the fallen Biron.

Afinogenov passed was deflected and it came over to Doug Gilmour. Gilmour was tripped up and as he was going down, he flipped the puck past Dafoe for the first time of the game. It was Gilmour's first goal in 8 games.

With only five minutes left in the game, the faceoff was in the Sabres zone and Sergei Samsonov got it over to Jason Allison, who shot it high into the top part of the net to give the Bruins a two goal lead again.

The Sabres made a late attempt to get back in the game when J.P. Dumont passed the puck over to James Patrick pinching in. Patrick blasted it past Dafoe and the Sabres had a little daylight with a little over two minutes remaining. It was Patrick's 4th of the season. But it was too little too late as the Bruins were able to keep the Sabres hemmed in when they pulled Biron in favor of an extra attacker.

Biron had to face only 22 shots, but still didn't seem to have the mastery he had over the Avalanche and the Capitals in earlier victories. He has now lost two straight and still looks rusty. His communication with his defensemen leaves a lot to be desired. At the other end of the rink, Dafoe was superb, stopping 25 shots.

The Sabres can still capture the 4th seed in the East if they win their next two games, even if the Flyers win two out of three. So it appears as if the whole race will come right down to the end.

Sabres Talk

Sabres Coach Lindy Ruff was not too pleased with his team's effort.

"They set the trap up pretty high in the neutral zone and our passing was nowhere near perfect," said a disappointed Ruff after the game. "We turned it over quite a few times, and had a few chances, but it was a little bit of both. It was a terrible night (for turnovers).

"First we had a horrible night on faceoffs, which meant we were chasing most of the night," Ruff continued. "It was kind of like when Boston played Toronto. They did the same thing, they got the one goal lead and played the trap to perfection through the neutral zone and frustrated the heck out of the team. We refused to get it deep at times. They lined three guys up and we didn't get it deep. That's the game you've got to battle through. We didn't take advantage of our early opportunities, and they got the break and scored."

Steve Heinze was playing against his former teammates and would liked to have scored against them.

"Obviously, you're disappointed," said Heinze. "We had our destiny in our own hands. Unfortunately, we didn't come out and seize the moment."

Another player going up against a former team was Dixon Ward, the former Sabre who signed on with the Bruins early in the season.

"He's not conventional in a lot of his methods," Ward said about Keenan. "Everybody knows that. You can't just instill something and have everyone pick up on it. Our record in the last 40 games speaks volumes about how this team has turned around."

Two other Bruins were looking at the tight race between them and Carolina.

"Carolina has been playing well, we've been playing real well," said Allison. "All you can do is to take one game at a time. That would be the most disappointing part if we didn't make it this year. Right now, we can play with any team on any night."

"There's nothing we can do about what's going on, what Carolina does, what Toronto does," said Rolston . "It would be nice if we could get some help, but we can't look at that. We've got to just try to win our games and that's all we can do."


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