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Sabres Central

Sabres dethrottle the champs again
By Rick Anderson
December 8, 2000

Sometimes certain teams bring the best out in the Buffalo Sabres. That has been the case this year with the New Jersey Devils.
Dominik Hasek clears the puck as Devils winger Sergei Nemchinov tries to go after the puck.
[AP Photo/David Duprey]

The Sabres continued their mastery of the Stanley Cup champion Devils Thursday night as they posted an impressive 5-2 victory, ending the Devils 9-game unbeaten streak. Buffalo won the only other game between the two clubs this year when Dominik Hasek shut them out 4-0 back on November 11.

The Sabres came out flying and looked more like the Stanley Cup champions than the actual ones. Last year, the Devils had the Sabres number. This year the opposite is true. The Sabres were dominant in all categories. The main one was the fact that the Sabres didn't take one penalty. It was the first time in 20 years that the Sabres weren't called for one penalty. "I think that was one of our best efforts of the year, obviously, going up against a team like that," said Curtis Brown. "You're never going to play a perfect game but that was a real nice effort by the guys."

The best line on the ice was the Brown-Varada-Rasmussen line, which accounted for three goals.

Talking about playing with his linemates, Brown said, "You know what, I think it helps me too. I think if you go out and play with those guys, it forces you to go out and get involved and get down there. And not rely on them to get down and get the puck. I think I'm taking it upon myself a little bit more now than I was earlier in the year to go and get it. Sometimes, I remember playing earlier with Miro (Satan) and he has the puck all day long and you tend to sit back. With these guys, they do such a great job down low and I'm just trying to keep up with them."

Snow job

The Devils claim that they were victims of a snow job. They blamed having to wait an extra day to play the game that was supposed to be played the night before as the reason for losing. The game between the Sabres and Devils was postponed because of a "snowstorm" in Buffalo on Wednesday. The city only received 4 inches of snow, but the mayor of Buffalo closed the city because of fears of stranded motorists like a couple weeks before. As a result, the Devils were "stuck" in the city of Buffalo with nothing to do.

There were plenty of places for them to go, like a short walk to the Chippewa bar scene or they could have gone numerous other places in the city or suburbs. Instead, they complained that having to wait an extra day disrupted their schedule.

"We sat around a hotel for 48 hours and that doesn't help," complained Devils coach Larry Robinson. "There's no place you could go, nothing you could do -- go from your bed to eat and back to your bed -- and it looked like it. We looked dead. We flatly got outplayed, outhustled, outhit at every part of the game."

The Sabres, on the other hand, seemed to have that extra jump in their legs and the day off seemed to do improve their stamina.

Brodeur also noticed the unusual speed of the Sabres.

"They were skating real fast compared to the teams we're used to," said Brodeur. "It had to be something we did. I don't think those guys are that much faster than we are."

Maybe it was the extra day off that rejuvenated the Sabres jets.

Hot Ice

The Sabres once again exploded offensively against the champion Devils. It started at the 13:14 mark of the first period when Maxim Afinogenov ripped off a shot right off the faceoff and Chris Gratton tipped it past Brodeur to open the scoring. Gratton was an immense figure in front of Brodeur, as he couldn't be knocked off his stance until after the goal. The score stood at 1-0 until the early fireworks in the second.

[AP Photo/David Duprey]

Right at the beginning of the second period, Curtis Brown, who is having one of his worst starts ever, made a strong rush to the net and banged home his own rebound to make it 2-0. The goal came just 39 seconds into the period.

Then just 50 seconds later, Stu Barnes cashed in on a J.P. Dumont pass to score his 7th of the season. However, the Devils ruined Dominik Hasek's shutout bid with less than three minutes left in the period when Petr Sykora scored one right off the faceoff to make it 3-1.

Less than a minute later, Varada tore down the ice with only one defenseman to beat, he stuck out his left leg to get around the defenseman. He got in alone on Belfour and put the puck through the goalie's pad for the goal. After he was tripped up, Varada followed the puck into the net and crashed into Belfour, causing a ruckus. Belfour and Varada went at it before being joined by all the other skaters on the ice.

Sykora got his second goal of the night 5 minutes into the third period, but that goal was answered when Rasmussen got a powerplay goal, his fourth of the season and first in 17 games. From there, Hasek was his usual stingy self, as he finished with 28 saves.

No penalties

Picture this: A hockey game without any penalties. It happened once in Sabres history, and that was way back on February 17, 1980 when the Sabres and Canadiens played a "Perfect game." On Thursday night at HSBC Arena, the Sabres had their first perfect game since then. No penalties! It is a feat that probably won't happen again for another two decades.

"The penalty kill was a big part of the game for us," joked Sabres coach Lindy Ruff. Asked if he remembered the game against Montreal (when he was a player) when there were no penalties, Ruff said, "It was 20-some years ago, I don't remember that. We've come a long way. The one thing you don't want to do is to beat yourself. Our discipline has been very good."

Sabres Talk

Followers of the Sabres were wondering all season when Curtis Brown would finally start playing the way he used to play. It has been a struggle for Brown all season and he hasn't really been himself since he suffered from the "Doug Gilmour Flu" last season before Gilmour was even a Sabre. Thursday night, Brown had a very impressive 3-point night, scoring 1 goal and 2 assists. Brown gave full credit to his teammates.

"I think Rass (Rasmussen) and V (Varada), they were playing strong on the wings. We were able to come in and get another one late to help us out."

Talking about the boost he got from the big plays of Rasmussen and Varada, Brown said, "It's a huge boost. I think it goes back to again to what makes this team strong team. We're playing well, everybody is contributing. It's not one or two guys, or one line - it's all four lines, 6 defensemen, the goalies, everybody making contributions. That's what makes this club a good hockey team."

"The best part about this group is that no one cares who gets the points or scores," Brown continued. "It's good for a couple of us to get out of little slumps but the bottom line is winning and it was a great effort tonight."

Ruff was beaming with pride over his team's effort.

"We had our 'A' game from start to finish," said Ruff. "I thought our transition game was very good. Our speed up the middle...was very evident. Our passing was probably as good as I've seen it all year."

Barnes, who got his 7th goal of the season, was also very upbeat about the Sabres performance.

"The last three games, we've improved every game," said Barnes. "We've been more patient, and tried to play smarter. It was a great effort by everybody tonight. You know, not taking penalties and just playing smart."

"You just have to throw everything you can at (Brodeur) and hope you beat him," Barnes said. "He's a great, great goalie. But we had guys going to the net and got some pucks behind him. You're not always going to get that many on him."

"We were lucky we had guys going to the net tonight," said Barnes. "We got some pucks behind him (Brodeur) and it worked out good for us tonight. But you're not always going to get that many."

Brown enjoyed playing against the Devils top line.

"I think anytime you go out and you're playing against the other team's top line, obviously you want to go out and shut them down and try to get some chances yourself," said Brown. "Unfortunately, a couple of bad bounces went against us and they made it close at times.

Rasmussen, who hadn't gotten a goal in 17 games, was ready to give his goal back.

"I'd give my goal back for the two goals we gave up," Rasmussen said. "Both goals were situations where a puck hopped, and maybe we weren't immediately at fault, but we were on the ice. You're out there to stop them. When you give up two, you're lucky when you got three."

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