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Sabres Central

Essensa squanders King-sized chance
By Rick Anderson
January 18, 2002

The Kings' Adam Deadmarsh, who scored the winning goal late in the game, tries to stick-check Sabres center Erik Rasmussen in third period action.
[AP Photo/John Hayes]

Nothing seems to be going Bob Essensa's way this season. Coming into Thursday night's game against the Kings in Los Angeles, Essensa was sporting a 0-4-0 record. Being 37 years young, Essensa had something to prove, especially after at least a half a dozen Sabres players came forward earlier in the week and say Essensa should be given another chance to start in goal. Bob got his chance and once again came up empty handed as the Kings scored a couple of late game goals to beat the Sabres 4-2.

Last season Essensa was tending goal for the Vancouver Canucks and was a key factor in getting his team into the playoffs. The Sabres decided to shell out $600,000 for the 12-year veteran to help backup Martin Biron, who would take over as the No. 1 goalie after the Sabres traded Dominik Hasek to Detroit. The experiment has not worked out for either the Sabres or Essensa.

"It's frustrating," admitted Essensa. "When you go without a win into January, you'd like to get that monkey off your back and contribute as much as you can. In the games I've played, we've had chances to win, but we just haven't been able to do it. So it gets a more and more frustrating."

Coming into the game, Essensa had a 3.28 GAA and a terrible save percentage of .841. Those kind of stats usually delegate one to the minor leagues. Essensa, who turned 37 on Monday, knows it is do or die with the Sabres. Now, after losing this heart-breaking game, his fate is in Sabres coach Lindy Ruff's hands.

Sabres take early lead

The Sabres actually took the lead in this game, not once but twice in the first period.. Buffalo came out loaded for bear and played an aggressive game.

Dmitri Kalinin got things rolling for the Sabres 4:19 into the game when he took a pass from Miroslav Satan and put the puck past Kings goalie Jamie Storr. Brad Chartrand put the second shot that Essensa faced behind him after getting a nice pass from Mikko Eloranta just a couple minutes later.

The Sabres once again took the lead when Curtis Brown put a backhand shot past Storr, but after that the Kings goalie shut the door on the Sabres. He made 21 saves compared to Essensa's 17.

After a scoreless second stanza, the Kings came out and scored three on Buffalo to take the game. First, Richard Smehlik threw the puck from behind the net and it took a funny bounce to Ziggy Palffy, who was stationed at the left faceoff circle. Palffy put his shot up top over Essensa to tie the game six minutes into the final period.

"I picked it up when it left his stick," Essensa said. "We had some guys coming across in front when the shot came, but it just beat me. We were fine there, positionally, but we just made a pass and it took a funny bounce off the boards to one of their best goal scorers. When things are going well, you get those breaks."

Deadmarsh added, "It looked like it was going into overtime, but we got a little bit of a lucky bounce off the glass and capitalized. Ziggy made a great shot. That was a rocket. He's pretty dangerous when he gets it in that spot."

With a little over a minute left in the contest, Deadmarsh beat Smehlik and went in on Essensa. He got off a lame duck backhander off on the Sabres elderly goalie and it went through his pads to seal the Sabres fate. When the Sabres pulled Essensa in favor of the extra attacker, Bryan Smolinski put one in the empty net to add insult to injury.

This was a game the Sabres desperately needed. With the loss and a Devils victory, the Sabres have slipped to 5 points from the 8th place spot in the East. They must pull out a victory over either Phoenix on Saturday or against the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche in order to salvage a split in this current 4-game western road swing.

Read ESPN's Recap for more game details.

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