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Sabres Central

Afinogenov shoots down Islanders in OT
By Rick Anderson
February 7, 2001

Rob Ray and Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro have their first confrontation of the night. Here Ray tries to put one past DiPietro, but the goalie blocks it. Later in the game, DiPietro skated down the ice to confront Dominik Hasek in a wild brawl, but Ray cross-checked DiPietro before he could get to the Sabres goalie.
[AP Photo/David Duprey]

Rick DiPietro was shutting the Sabres down all night. But with the score tied 1-1 in overtime, Maxim Afinogenov finally got one through at the 42 second mark to give the Sabres a hard-fought 2-1 victory over the New York Islanders.

After Stu Barnes scored for the Sabres in the first minute of the second period, DiPietro had barred the door to the Sabres. Afinogenov had a great chance when he got in alone on DiPietro late in the third period and the Isles goalie stopped it with his hot glove. DiPietro's glove must have been on Afinogenov's mind when Eric Rasmussen threaded the perfect pass onto his stick. This time Maxim's shot got through the pads of DiPietro to give the Sabres a four game sweep of the series between the two teams.

The exact same showdown between Afinogenov and DiPietro had happened once before in this game. Late in the third period, Afinogenov had broken in free on DiPietro and let off a zinger of a shot. DiPietro, the first goalie ever chosen No. 1 overall in the draft, snared the puck with his catching mit. Afinogenov went off the ice shaking his head that time. In overtime, Maxim was determined to get one through on the rookie goalie.

Mad Max to the rescue

Afinogenov had been one of the Sabres forwards who did not end his scoring funk against the Rangers the night before. His slump continued through regulation and it appeared that his snake-bitten ways would continue when he roared down the ice on a three-on-one break 36 seconds into overtime.

Erik Rasmussen led the break down the left side and appeared as if he was going to shoot the puck at DiPietro. Instead, Rasmussen passed over to Afinogenov breaking up the middle. His pass almost was blocked by Islander defenseman Kenny Jonsson, who slid to block the pass. The puck, however just managed to slip through his legs and onto the stick of Afinogenov. Maxim's shot was similar to Rasmussen's pass, it just barely slipped through DiPietro's pads and over the goal line. The sellout crowd in HSBC Arena exploded with a wild ovation as the Sabres won their second straight game against a New York team.

"It doesn't matter which line you play on. You just show what you can do and do your job," said Afinogenov . "I drove to the net, and it was just a lucky bounce. I was really happy we won the game; it was an important game for us. For sure, it's a very important goal for me, too."

Rasmussen was happy that Maxim finally hit the back of the net.

"Max has had more than his fair share of opportunities lately," commented Rasmussen. "It's just like everybody, you struggle, you fight through it and when you get a bounce, hopefully you get hot. That's key for us, to get him hot."

Sabres coach Lindy Ruff, when he saw the three-on-one break, was ready to quickly don a pair of skates and join in on the rush. Everyone on the bench leaped to their feet and started screaming "Three-on-one!"

"If (the Sabres forwards) didn't see it, they heard it," joked Ruff. "I was almost there with them. It was almost a 4-on-1."

WWF on the ice

The second period became a wild free-for-all as the teams compiled a grand total of 112 minutes in penalties. Dominik Hasek was involved as he was knocked over and that triggered a huge brawl. Eric Boulton was involved and when a third Islander took him on, Hasek came out of his crease to help out. DiPietro skated down the ice to take on Hasek and Rob Ray intervened by putting his stick to DiPietro's face mask, further inciting the riot on the ice. The Islanders had two players ejected, former Sabre Garry Galley and Claude Lapointe, while Buffalo's Vaclav Varada went sent to the showers. After that melee, another one erupted in the second period, resulting in even more penalties. The second round started when Craig Berube got two birds with one stone when he used his stick to fell two Sabres, Hasek and Jay McKee with one swipe. Then Berube decided to go for all the gusto and started punching the Sabres fallen goalie. Enter Rhett Warrener, Vaclav Varada and McKee into the fracas and it took quite a while to separate the bodies.

Hasek remembered when the Sabres last played the Maple Leafs and Garry Valk ran into the Sabres goalie like a freight train, smashing his head into the plexiglass. At that time no one came to his rescue. This time things were different.

"It's a good feeling to see your teammates stick up for you," said Hasek. "I think especially Varada did a great job in this fight."

Barnes and Czerkawski

Dominik Hasek, who stonewalled the New York Islanders all night, finally has the puck slip out from underneath him where Islanders right wing Mariusz Czerkawski (21) is able to slap it home. The goal was a powerplay tally and allowed the Isles to tie the game late in the third period.
[AP Photo/David Duprey]

Stu Barnes notched his 15th goal of the season when he beat Dipietro 1:07 into 2nd period to put the Sabres up 1-0. That lead was upheld by the Sabres midway through the third period. The Sabres had just killed a two-man disadvantage when Doug Gilmour took an undisciplined roughing penalty at 12:24 of the third stanza. This time the Isles were able to tie it up. On a wild scramble in front of the Sabres net, Hasek did his usual snow angel and felt he had the puck smothered under him. However, the puck somehow slipped out and was lying for what seemed like eternity in the crease until Mariusz Czerkawski slapped it home. That goal forced the overtime and if it weren't for a lucky bounce that made it through defenseman Kenny Jonsson, the game probably would have ended up in a tie.

DiPietro, who has lost all three of his starts, has allowed only five goals in those three games.

"It's tough to go home with one point when we put in a good enough effort for two," said DiPietro. "It's a tough loss, but we're making a lot of strides."

"He's not having any luck right now," added Islanders coach Butch Goring . "He certainly played very well, had a couple of big saves in the third period and gave us a chance to at least get a point."

Meanwhile, Hasek has been impressive in his last two starts. He made 30 saves against the Islanders and would have had a shutout if the puck hadn't somehow found daylight when he thought he had the puck covered just before Czerkawski whacked it into the empty net.

The Sabres next game is against the Northeast Division leading Ottawa Senators in Canada's Capital.

Sabres Talk

Ruff talked about Afinogenov and the Sabres winning their second straight game to remain 1 point in front of the Bruins for the 7th playoff spot in the East.

"I thought Max had a heck of an opportunity to win it for us in late in the third, and I thought, it's going to be hard to get another one," commented Ruff said. "To put back-to-back wins together after losing back-to-back (before the break), it's a step in the right direction."

Afinogenov also got some kudos from an unlikely source - Hasek.

"Max, he had almost no room to shoot, but somehow he found the hole," lauded Hasek. "From where I was I couldn't see the puck, but I saw the red light."

Barnes used the "double-pump" to fake out Dipietro for the opening goal.

"The puck went off Jonsson's stick, Isbister thought he had a piece of it and then it jumped to me," described Barnes. "I fanned on the shot, a weak backhand, but it went in.When I fanned on that backhand shot, it might have confused the goalie."

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