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Sabres Central

Flying Phoenix leaves Buffalo in ashes
By Rick Anderson
February 24, 2001

We all knew it would end sooner or later. It happened suddenly Friday night as the Sabres winning bubble was burst violently. The Phoenix Coyotes shattered the Buffalo Sabres 4-game winning streak as they bombarded the Sabres with a 7-3 thrashing.

Dominic Hasek was pulled after allowing 4 goals in the first two periods. Backup Martin Biron did even worse as he continued to struggle, allowing 3 goals. The scene at HSBC Arena was ugly to say the least. The Sabres could not match up to the speed nor the physical play of the Coyotes as they dominated from the opening faceoff. It was an embarrassing performance by a team that was starting to have thoughts about bigger and better things.

Coyotes goalie Sean Burke gets ready for another shot after he stops the first shot with his pads. Sabres center Stu Barnes and Coyotes' Teppo Numminen get in on the action in the first period of a Coyotes 7-3 blowout over Buffalo.
[AP Photo/David Duprey]

The Sabres, who finally got a video ruling about a controversial goal in their favor the other night when a last second goal by the New Jersey Devils was disqualified as time had run out, had the luck go the other way in this one. Not once, but twice.

First, in a wild scramble in front of the Buffalo crease, Jeremy Roenick got the puck up high on Hasek and it appeared as if the Buffalo goalie had blocked it. But the Coyotes were celebrating the goal and the officials went upstairs where the replay revealed that it had gone in. It was Roenick's 22nd goal of the season and came 9 minutes into the first period.

The second controversial goal turned out to be a no-goal for the Sabres. Buffalo was awarded a two-man advantage and finally got tons of pressure on Phoenix goalie Sean Burke. Stu Barnes got the puck between Burke's pads and the left post, but replays showed that it didn't go completely over the line. Unlike the NFL, where the ball just has to break the plane of the goal line, in hockey the puck has to completely go over the line. After those bad breaks for Buffalo, it was all downhill.

Shane Doan scored a powerplay goal a little over half way through the first period to make it 2-0 Phoenix. Barnes was able to get the Sabres back in the game, making it 2-1 Phoenix, when the two-man advantage ended, but that was as close as the Sabres would get to the two points they were seeking.

Sabres fall like prey to Coyotes

The Coyotes dazzled the Sabres with everything they did. Buffalo was no match for the bigger, faster Coyotes and Sabres coach Lindy Ruff has to devise ways to deal with that kind of aggressive attack.

May Day! Brad May, former Sabre, greets rookie Sabre Eric Boulton with a strangle hold as he takes Boulton down in a first period fight.
[AP Photo/David Duprey]

"Soft play in our zone killed us," Ruff said. "They skated a little better. They won the 1-on-1 battles. They won the battles. They won the fight. They won the goaltending. They were better offensively. That leads up to getting smoked."

Hasek went a total of 178 minutes, 22 seconds before allowing Roenick's first goal of a three-goal night. After Barnes scored 13:21 into 1st period, Hasek played adequately not allowing another goal until Roenick got his second of the night on a power play 12:49 into the second stanza. That would be followed by Juha Ylonen's goal a minute later. The rout was on!

Hasek, who made 22 saves and allowed 4 goals coming off back-to-back shutouts, was replaced in the third period by backup Martin Biron. Biron continued his struggles in the nets, allowing 3 more third period goals. It would almost seem to be the time for Ruff to send Biron back down to Rochester for some more game conditioning.

Hasek, meanwhile was not too happy with his game.

"It's a classic example," said a dejected Hasek. "You can be the best one day and the worst the next day."

In the third period, there was actually a time when it appeared as if the Sabres could possible stage a miracle comeback. Curtis Brown and J.P. Dumont scored only 34 seconds apart to make it a 5-3 game. But the Phoenix answered with two quick strikes of their own, 66 seconds apart to cap the high scoring night.

Sabres Talk

Ruff knew that the Sabres winning streak would come to an end sometime, but he also wanted the two points desperately.

"It was a big two points for us," said Ruff. "Every point is valuable right now, especially if you look on our schedule. We have one more home game and then a very demanding five-game trip."

"The one thing we didn't want to get involved in was a special teams game," said Ruff, referring to the Coyotes 2 power play goals in the game. "You burn out too many players. In the first period we get four power plays, they get three. You're using the same personnel killing that you are on the power play. We knew we wanted to use four lines, but I think we burned a few guys out."

Defenseman Jason Woolley was exasperated over the Sabres defensive letdown.

"There's no explanation," said Woolley. "It's just one of those nights where everything they shot seemed to go in the net. It just kept getting worse and worse. There were breakdowns. But (our players) have already forgotten about this one."

Roenick got his 400th career NHL goal on the first goal of the night. He also had his ninth hat trick.

"For (Tkachuk) to get the puck for me and for him to assist on it, seriously means a lot," said Roenick said. "I've been very fortunate to play with a lot of great players in my time, it's only right for the guy that's helped me out the most lately. To get that puck and congratulate me, that was real special."

Roenick is only the third American to reach the 400 goal milestone. Ex-Sabres Pat LaFontaine had 468 and Joe Mullen scored 502 goals.

His teammate, Keith Tkachuk, helped Roenick with 5 assists.

"I'm glad I was part of his 400th goal, because that's history. It was fun to be a part of it," Tkachuk said.

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