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Sabres Central

Sabres win second straight in OT with Maxim strike
By Rick Anderson
February 11, 2001

Call it the Mad Max attack. For the second straight game, it was Maxim Afinogenov to the rescue as he pulled the overtime rabbit out of his helmet and scored the winning goal in sudden death. As a result, the Sabres gained an extra point over the Northeast Division leading Ottawa Senators as they squeaked by the Sens 2-1.

Duck! Jay McKee gets slammed in the chin my Alexei Yashin's stick in the first period. Meanwhile, Miroslav Satan avoids the collision by ducking under the two.
[AP Photo/Jonathan Hayward]

Against the Islanders on Wednesday, it was Afinogenov notching the game winner 42 seconds into the overtime stanza. It was Erik Rasmussen who fed Maxim with a beautiful pass that barely got under the diving Islander defenseman onto the stick of Afinogenov. This night in Ottawa's Corel Centre, Rasmussen was instrumental in setting up the winning OT goal again, this time 1:52 into overtime.

"I said to Max before I threw him out there, ‘Let's see if you can do it again," commented Sabres coach Lindy Ruff. "I purposely left Rasmussen and Max together to see if they had a little magic left in them."

Indeed they did as Afinogenov once again pulled the trigger in overtime to bury the Sabres opponent. Rasmussen led the flow down the right side into the Senators zone. He cut towards the middle and put a shot on Senators goalie Patrick Lalime, who made the save. The puck headed into the right corner and Rhett Warrener scooped it up and forced another shot on Lalime. The puck found its way under the goalie and may have even crossed the line before it somehow made its way back out to Afinogenov, who was befuddling the Senators defense with his frenzied moves in front of the crease. Maxim's shot made it under Lalime's pads and crossed the goal line for good. And the celebration was on!

"I got lucky again," admitted Afinogenov. "I just played how I usually play. (I) start in motion and put the puck in the net."

"Max had a great chance earlier in the third period, he hit the post," said Rasmussen. "He's dangerous whenever he's around the net, so it's an ideal situation for Max."

Crucial victory in Canada's capital

This game with the Senators was definitely a measuring stick to see just where the Sabres stacked up with one of the best in the East. After playing against mostly sub-.500 teams the past two weeks, the Sabres were up for the challenge.

Dominik Hasek gets ready to cover a shot by Senators' Martin Havlat in the second period.
[REUTERS Photo/Jim Young]

Even though Buffalo has had a lot of success against the Senators in the past, the Corel Centre was turning into a house of horrors for the Sabres. In their previous 10 visits to Ottawa, the Sabres had just won a single game during the regular season. Dominik Hasek was also unsuccessful there, winless in his last 8 starts, having won the last time on March 1, 1997.

The Sabres and Hasek blanketed the Senators, smothering their offensive game and leaving the Corel Centre with the 2 points. Hasek was at his best in this one. He made 32 stops and had the Senators shaking their heads just like days of old.

After a scoreless first period, Ruff decided the Sabres needed to light a fire under his team.

"I was upset after the first period and I let the players know it," said Ruff. "I'm tired of losing in this building. I told them if they continued to play like they did in the first period, we would lose, and they responded. We played our best second period in this building."

Hasek was glad his coach fired up his squad between the first and second periods.

"He was sort of screaming at us a little about the way we played in the first,"described Hasek. "I'm glad we won. Ottawa is No. 1 in our division, so it's a very nice win."

As a result of the win, the Sabres moved up to just 6 points behind the Senators. The Toronto Maple Leafs also played to a 3-3 tie with Detroit and are only 2 points in front of Buffalo.

Ottawa, who is one of the top offensive powerhouses in the East, was going against the team that has allowed the fewest goals in the conference. The Sabres D won out with its smothering style of play. That's not to say the Senators didn't get their share of chances, but Hasek was playing like he did when he literally stole Game One of the opening round of the 1998 playoffs. That robbery back then light a fire under the Sabres and they roared through the playoff, only falling a couple games short of winning the ultimate prize. Hasek's play was very reminiscent of that game.

"We hit the post twice, but we just weren't lucky," the Senators Andreas Dackell said. "Hasek played well, but he was also lucky with the posts."

Sabres strike first

J.P. Dumont, who was not expected to play because he was suffering from flu-like symptoms, helped the Sabres get on the board first when he initiated the play that led to Miroslav Satan's 17th goal of the season. Dumont sent a pass to Stu Barnes, who rifled a bullet off Lalime's mask. The puck dropped into the crease area and Satan poked it home to put Buffalo up 1-0 1:03 into 2nd period.

The Senators countered that goal when Alexei Yashin got a pass from Marian Hossa inside the Sabres zone. Yashin made a deke on Jay McKee who went to the ice and veered towards the middle. He sent a perfect shot on Hasek that beat the Sabres goalie on the glove side tying it at 1 apiece. That's the way the game stayed until Mad Max did his overtime magic again.

The Sabres play the Senators' neighbors to the east Sunday when they face the Montreal Canadiens at HSBC Arena.

Sabres Talk

Ruff was pleased that the Sabres were able to beat the division leading Sens.

"Things haven't changed too much when these two teams play," said Ruff. "Good goaltending and solid defense. We took control in the second period and I thought they were going to take control in the third, but we came through."

Where's Dominik Hasek? The only thing visible of Hasek are his skates as Senators' Rob Zamuner falls on top of Hasek during the first period as Alexei Zhitnik stands guard.
[AP Photo/Jonathan Hayward]

Ruff's counterpart, Ottawa coach Jacques Martin, felt the game could have easily gone the other way.

"It was close and we had some opportunities, especially in the third period," said Martin. "A couple of mistakes and the puck is in the net."

Lalime, though disappointed with the loss, knew that he did the best he could on Afinogenov's tally.

"There's not a lot you can do about that one," said Lalime, who made 21 saves on the night. "We got the point, but we also let one slip away. You don't want to put any pressure on yourself because winning is what this league is all about, but we've got to get some wins.

"It didn't seem to me like we gave them a whole lot. There was just a lot of action in front. I couldn't really see what was happening on the winner. I kind of swept the puck out and the next thing I know, I hear the crowd yelling."

Daniel Alfredsson thought the Sabres appeared content escaping Ottawa with a tie the way they played in the third period.

"They didn't play liked they wanted to win," said Alfredsson. "The fact they got the two points must have made them really happy."

"We've got to start playing better," Senators defenseman Chris Phillips said. "We have to turn things around. I don't think what we have to do here is drastic, but the last few games our mistakes have really hurt us. It seems like whenever we make a mistake right now it really comes back to hurt us or it ends up in our net. These are teams we're going to be battling for position with in the playoffs and we can't be giving away points. Those could turn up costly in the end and that's the bottom line."

Rasmussen, who chased down a puck unsuccessfully late in the third period to try to prevent an icing, was exhausted when the overtime commenced.

"I wanted to play a short shift in overtime and was glad that we scored," Rasmussen said. "It's more playoff atmosphere, it's grinding out.... Nothing comes easy against these guys and anything you get you've got to earn."

Hasek was glad to finally escape Ottawa with a win.

"We beat the Rangers and the Islanders, but those were very average teams," said Hasek. "To beat Ottawa, that's a good win for us."

Curtis Brown, who had missed the previous two games because of back spasms, played a regular shift for the Sabres.

"He looked as good as he did before the injury," said Ruff. "Certainly through the first two periods he skated as well as anyone out there."

However, the Sabres lost their main grinder, Stu Barnes, when he pulled a rib cage muscle during the second period. Barnes appears doubtful for the game against the Habs.

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