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Sabres Central

Sabres storm back to beat Thrashers
By Rick Anderson
February 16, 2001

Dominik Hasek makes a sliding save as Ray Ferraro attempts to bat in the rebound.
[AP Photo/David Duprey]

For one game, the Buffalo Sabres actually played like they really meant it. Maybe it was all the negative press they were getting in and around Western New York. Whatever it was, the Sabres came out and played a fairly intense game in beating the Atlanta Thrashers 3-1.

Hopefully the Sabres have turned the corner in what appeared to be a major tailspin into the pits of the NHL cellar. Losing to such inferior teams as Columbus, Florida, Tampa Bay, Montreal and Atlanta on Tuesday had the Sabres in a very nasty mood Thursday night in HSBC Arena.

If the Sabres had played as poorly in this home game against the Thrashers, the fans may have run them out of town. So it was with a chippy attitude right from the start that told the fans and the Thrashers that they were not going to be happy with anything but a win.

Buffalo's defense, which had looked so porous in the first meeting between the two clubs Tuesday, played much more solid in this one. In Atlanta on Tuesday, the Thrashers had ripped 36 shots on starting goalie Martin Biron when they beat the Sabres 5-4. Thursday night, Dominik Hasek faced only 21.

Sabres strike first

Miroslav Satan, who had been benched for over a period in the first meeting with the Thrashers for a costly giveaway that led to a Thrashers early goal, played one of his better games of the season. Stu Barnes threaded a nice pass to Satan in the right faceoff circle. Satan deked around Stefan and forced Damian Rhodes to go down before putting it in for his 19th of the season.

That goal came 7:41 into 1st period. Four minutes later, Atlanta answered when Odgers banged one home to tie the game. From there, Hasek and the Sabres defense shut down the Thrashers.

In the second stanza, Vaclav Varada found Rhett Warrener in front of the net, as he had gotten past Thrasher defenseman Brett Clark. Warrener made good of Varada's pass and the Sabres had their lead back for good.

Halfway through the third period, Maxim Afinogenov continued his hot streak as he scored his 12th of the season on a brilliant move when he got past Jiri Slegr and buried the puck through Rhodes legs.

Feisty mood

The Sabres were anything but physical in the opening game of this mini series. They were determined not to get pushed around in their own building.

Rob Ray set the tone early as he took on Jeff Odgers in a scrap that sent both to the box. Right off the faceoff, Eric Boulton and Denny Lambert dropped their glove and went at it. The message had been set. From that point on, the Sabres banged away at every Thrasher jersey in sight.

"That was the game plan, to muck it up a little bit," said Sabres coach Lindy Ruff. "We did a good job of it."

Sabres Talk

Warrener, who scored the winning goal, knew the defense had to pick it up after their last two losses.

"I think we were embarrassed with ourselves, not so much the losses, but how we lost them and gave up the points," commented Warrener. "When you're playing against teams at this time of the season, and you have leads with eight minutes left, you don't expect to lose those games. Hopefully it showed tonight that we came out and finally got our job done."

Curt Fraser, the Atlanta coach, knew his team had walked into a bee hive from the opening faceoff.

"(The Sabres) had some jump," said Fraser. "They were going to make things happen tonight. They wanted to stir the pot and get things going right away: knock the beehive out of the tree."

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