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Sabres Central

Hurricanes blow past Sabres
By Rick Anderson
December 16, 2000

The Carolina Hurricanes came on like gale-force winds and blew past the Buffalo Sabres 5-3 after trailing for almost half the game. Somehow, someway the Sabres allowed this game slip away from them. Defensive lapses and dead giveaways spelled doom for Buffalo.

The loss ended the Sabres 3-game road trip in which they lost two. The first and last game of the road swing were almost exact duplicates. Against both the Rangers and the ‘Canes, the Sabres took what seemed to be command of the game and led 2-1 midway through the contests. Then disaster struck both times.

Dominik's Danger zone

‘Canes Bates Battaglia ties up Dominik Hasek in the first period as Sabres defenseman James Patrick tries to clear him out of the crease. Hasek would have a bad night, allowing 4 goals on 16 shots and would be pulled from goal early in the third period.
[AP Photo/ Karl DeBlaker]

All season long, one of the biggest questions swirling around the Sabres has been the performance of Dominik Hasek. He has been inconsistent in almost every game. One game he's in his zone and has a shutout, the next game he looks like a rookie in goal. Against the Hurricanes, Hasek displayed each form.

The Dominator started off the game as if he were going to continue his shutout streak. He made save after save and many of them were phenomenal. The Sabres veteran goalie was definitely in top form and appeared as if his zone would never be penetrated. Hasek kept the Sabres in the game as the ‘Canes could have easily run up the score early.

After the Sabres took the early lead in the game thanks to a power play goal by James Patrick, the ‘Canes came back and scored three minutes later on a goal that seemed to have Hasek fooled. Stu Barnes coughed up the puck in the neutral zone and Sami Kapanen roared in on the right side. He let go a shot that either went off Richard Smehlik's stick or Hasek's catching mit and into the net.

After Miroslav Satan put the Sabres in the lead once more in the second period, things began to unravel for the Sabres in a hurry. Curtis Brown had his clearing pass intercepted by Josef Vasicek, who took a shot on Hasek. Martin Gelinas deflected his shot through Hasek's pads 11:34 into 2nd period to tie the game. That goal really seemed to demoralize Hasek, as he got on all fours and swatted the puck out of the net with his catching glove.

"It's a split second," said Brown about his errant pass. "When I threw it, their guy reached back. If he doesn't, we're going the other way. It was turned over and we were all caught. It's something you can't do."

With the score tied 2-2 late in the second period, Vaclav Varada took a insipid interference penalty. The penalty came at the 19:38 mark and put the Sabres on their heels. With the puck dumped behind the Buffalo net, Hasek came out and tried to clear it. However, it was picked off by Kapanen who passed it to Ron Francis in the right circle. Francis flung the puck at Hasek and Jeff O'Neill was able to deflect the shot into the net. It was O'Neill's 9th of the season and put the ‘Canes on top for the rest of the way.

James Patrick converts on a perfect feed from J.P. Dumont to net the Sabres first goal of the night against ‘Canes goalie Arturs Irbe as Kevin Hatcher tries to check Patrick.
[AP Photo/ Karl DeBlaker]

"They kill you. They just kill you," Patrick said about the late penalty by Varada. "You're looking at "let's get out of this period' to a penalty and a puck in your net. It really changed momentum."

At the very beginning of the third period, everything came unraveled for the Sabres and Hasek. O'Neill attempted to shoot the puck toward's Hasek and Alexei Zhitnik had the puck bounce off his stick and right onto the stick of Francis. Francis wasted no time in slamming the puck past the bewildered Hasek putting the ‘Canes up 4-2. The goals by O'Neill and Francis came only 49 seconds apart and forced Hasek to the bench. He had allowed three straight goals in just 9 minutes. Hasek was definitely upset with his performance and stormed out of the Sabres locker room after changing into street clothes.

"They just beat us," fumed Hasek after the game. "We got twice up and then made some stupid mistakes that changed the game and changed our momentum."

Francis, the old Sabres killer, had one goal and had two assists. The 37-year old veteran of many hockey wars was coming off an injury and played in pain most of the game and had to spend around a half hour receiving treatment after the game.

"It's not too many times you are going to see Dominik Hasek come out of the nets and sit on the bench because you've scored on him," beamed Francis. "Our guys threw some pucks at the net and got some bounces and breaks."

Hasek had allowed 4 goals on just 16 shots. Now the question is if Hasek can ever regain his former dominance.

Dumont's goals turn into assists

J.P. Dumont, who had scored 5 straight Buffalo goals, had that streak broken Friday night in Carolina. However, he was a steady playmaker and was the quarterback on the Sabres first two goals. Halfway through the first period while the Sabres had a powerplay, Dumont fed defenseman James Patrick, who had parked himself in front of ‘Canes goalie Arturs Irbe. Patrick took the perfect Dumont pass and blasted it past Irbe for the early Sabres lead.

A minute and a half into the second stanza, Dumont once again threaded the needle when he spotted Satan out in front of Irbe. Satan found the back of the net for his 8th of the season. From there, it was all downhill for the Sabres. After Biron went in, he allowed a goal by another Sabres-killer Rod Brindamour. Dimitri Kalinin scored his second of the season for Buffalo at the 14:02 mark of the third and that capped the scoring.

Sabres Talk

Lindy Ruff was not taking this loss lightly.

Vaclav Varada tries to score on Hurricane's goaltender Arturs Irbe but his attempt is foiled.
[AP Photo/ Karl DeBlaker]

"You don't mind getting beat when you're outworked and you're outplayed," said Ruff. "We spent a good deal of time in their end. We just made some stupid mistakes."

The Sabres, for some reason, must have thought they had the two points even before they took the ice.

"We probably thought it was going to be easier," admitted Satan. "It went the other way around. They started playing harder and they started playing better."

Carolina coach Paul Maurice was in awe about how Francis played in spite of his nagging injuries.

"His preparation for each game is just phenomenal," said Maurice. "He doesn't go out on the ice for two days and for some guys it would take a week to get back in form. He just comes out and is at the top of his game. That's why he's as good as he is."

"He could not skate for a week and go out and play like this," chipped in O'Neill. "Every game it seems like he's breaking a record or doing something. You kind of take it for granted while it happening, but when all the guys on this team are done with their careers they will be real thrilled they got a chance to play with him."

Maurice was impressed with the O'Neill-Francis line.

"You had that feeling with that line that every time they went out there they were dangerous, that something was going to happen for them," said Maurice.


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