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Sabres Central

Habs comeback defeats Sabres
By Rick Anderson
February 12, 2001

Canadiens left winger Patrick Poulin scores the tying goal on this play. Dominik Hasek misplayed the puck as it came out from behind the net and Poulin was Johnny-on-the-spot, taking full advantage of the golden opportunity to make the score 3-3. Poulin also scored the winning goal a few minutes later.
[AP Photo/Don Heupel]

Back-to-back games just don't agree with the Buffalo Sabres. After playing a stellar defensive contest with the Ottawa Senators the night before, the Sabres allowed a 3-1 lead slip away until the Montreal Canadiens tied and finally beat Buffalo 4-3.

The defensive game of the Sabres must have not boarded the plane as they left Ottawa. Not only were there dead giveaways by the defense, but Sabres goalie Dominik Hasek also reverted to his early season form of below average.

Once again, the Sabres lost to a team lower in the standings and blew a huge opportunity to make up some ground on the division leaders. Losses to Montreal, Columbus, Boston, Florida and Tampa are unacceptable for a team that has playoff aspirations. Defeats to teams the Sabres should have no problems beating could cost them dearly come playoff time.

"It's frustrating," said Sabres coach Lindy Ruff . "We took a couple steps back before the break and three giant steps forward again. Our goal is to win the division. It's not to make the playoffs."

Sabres comeback only to blow it

The Sabres must have been worn out from the flight from Ottawa. There's no other way to explain it. Once again the Sabres were flat in the first period and Montreal took a 1-0 lead thanks to an unassisted goal by Oleg Petrov at the 8:38 mark of the period.

Like in the game against Ottawa, the Sabres came back and played a much stronger game in the second period. Maybe Sabres coach Lindy Ruff gave them another tongue lashing like he did the night before in Canada's capital. Either way, the Sabres exploded for three unanswered goals in the second, as Dimitri Kalinin, Dave Andreychuk and Vaclav Varada all scored to give the Sabres a 3-1 lead. Then the Sabres put it into automatic pilot and their plane crashed.

With Andreychuk off for two minutes, the Habs went on a power play and got back into the game when Stephane Robidas got the puck past Hasek.

Things really began to unravel for Hasek and the Sabres in the third period. With Alexei Zhitnik and Kalinin unable to get control of the puck behind the net and Montreal's Johan Witehall slipped it out Hasek to Hasek's right. The Sabres goalie attempted in vain to cover the puck as it came out, but it kept traveling right onto the stick of Patrick Poulin, who skated above the crease and tucked it in on the far side, tying the game.

A little less than 4 minutes later, during a Canadien line change, there was a break up the ice and instead of going to the bench, Poulin joined the 3-on-2 rush.

Koivu passed over to Poulin, and he sent a 25-foot shot that made it through Hasek's 5-hole.

We never gave up," said Poulin. "It's huge. We needed the win."

Sabres Talk

Meanwhile, the Sabres lost to another team that they should have easily beaten.

"We had breakdowns defensively," said Rhett Warrener. "We let them walk in, let them get the puck and score some goals. The gist was we can't afford to let a game like that slip away. We had something pretty good going here."

All the Sabres knew they had the Canadiens right where they had them, but let the cat out of the bag.

"We're wasting too many points," commented Rob Ray. "We wasted two tonight. We wasted in Florida. We wasted in Tampa. We're wasting way too many. In the long run, it could come back and haunt us. It's too tight and there's too few games left to be wasting these opportunities."

"Guys better realize it's crunch time," Warrener said. "This time of year, if we have a lead in the third, it should be a guaranteed win. It should be absolute desperation. It should be shots, eat pucks, make sure (the puck) is out, make sure we're back and getting the job done. When it gets this late in the season and you're not doing that, you better start messaging everybody's head."

"Sometimes, it takes that one (loss) to straighten you right out," said Woolley. "There's no excuse why this shouldn't be the one that does it. It's embarrassing to give up a 3-1 lead at home and a 3-2 lead with (nine) minutes left. It's all about defense. It's not about trying to get that next goal."

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