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Sabres Central

Sabres bring in the New Year with a hangover
By Rick Anderson
January 1, 2001

New Year's hangover. How else could you explain it? The Sabres suffered from the "Stanley Cup hangover" for one year, so having a hangover on New Year's day by the entire Buffalo Sabres is not hard to imagine. The Sabres definitely didn't have their game legs on New Year's Day until it was too late as the Boston Bruins trounced them 4-3.

Sabres goalie Dominik Hasek opens the New Year on a bitter note. The first shot on goal of the game by Sergei Samsonov flies over the sprawled goalie. Samsonov would score the last Bruins goal in the third period which turned out to be the winner.
[AP Photo/David Duprey]

The Sabres staged a frantic comeback, down 4-2 to score a goal late in the game, courtesy of a 2 man advantage and a pulled goalie for even one more attacker. However, though the Sabres came close to tying it up, it was their lackadaisical effort for the first 50 minutes that dug a hole too deep for them to crawl out of.

The Dominator broke his resolution

Dominik Hasek must have made a New Year's resolution to be more consistent in this new Millennium. However he wasted no time in breaking it. Fresh off a 2-0 shutout of the Ottawa Senators Friday night, Hasek immediately went back into his funk early in the first period. Only 37 seconds had elapsed in the first period when Sergei Samsonov, after receiving a pass from Jason Allison, shot the puck over a sprawled Hasek to put the Bruins in immediate command of the game.

Hasek got his game back for the rest of the period, stopping the next 11 Bruins shots. But then in the second stanza, Hasek's funk reared its ugly head again. After the Sabres had tied the game when Stu Barnes notched his 8th of the season, the Bruins struck twice late in the period.

Darren Van Impe got the Bruins ahead for good when he got a nice pass from Per-Johan Axelsson and tore down the left side. Van Impe raced in and force Hasek to go down before flipping it over the helpless goalie. Only three minutes later, with less than a minute left in the period, the Bruins broke the game wide open when Andrei Kovalenko backhanded a pass over to Axelsson who one-timed a shot that went through a sliding Hasek.

It went from bad to horrid for Hasek in the third period. People were waiting for Hasek to put two solid games in a row. They are going to have to wait some more for that to happen. Hasek seems to take every other game off and the pattern continued New Year's Day.

Samsonov, who scored at the beginning of the game, got another goal within the first minute of the third period. He took a very weak backhand shot from the right faceoff circle that was a squibbler that any minor league goalie would have no trouble with. But this was Hasek's off game, so the puck found its way through his pads and into the back of the net. Too much vodka for Hasek on New Year's Eve?

At that point, Sabres coach Lindy Ruff may have been mauling over the thought of pulling Hasek once again. However, this time he stuck with his beleaguered veteran goalie.

Too little, much too late

The only spark in the otherwise listless first 50 minutes of the game was Barnes goal. J.P. Dumont had threaded the needle, sending a pass through a Bruins defenseman's skates to Barnes, who was wide open on the right side of the net to tap in the pass. The tie was short-lived as the Bruins scored a few minutes later.

Doug Gilmour attempts to score on Bruins goalie Bryon Dafoe as Hall Gill gets in on the play.
[AP Photo/David Duprey]

After the Bruins took a commanding 4-1 lead, the Sabres finally started to get over their hangover. The were awarded a powerplay and Miroslav Satan got a pass from Barnes and he was able to beat Boston goalie Byron Dafoe for his 13th of the season at the 11:42 mark.

The Sabres got some help from the referees late in the game when Axelsson went off for hooking at the 17:36 mark and then Mclaren was called for high sticking 29 seconds later. After the Axelsson penalty, Ruff decided to go for all the gusto and pull Hasek. When Mclaren was sent off, it gave the Sabres 6 skaters to 3 for the Bruins.

The Sabres showed more energy and drive towards the net than the previous 58 minutes. Dave Andreychuk was finally able to score on Dafoe as he wrapped the puck around the left goal post and notched his 7th goal of the season. There was still 1:02 remaining in the game and Ruff pulled another rabbit out of his bad of tricks. He sent Hasek back into the net, but after a few moments, relieved him with Martin Biron. The thinking here was to keep the same line on the ice that had just scored the goal. By switching goalies, it bought some more time for his players to catch their breath. However, the extra time also helped the penalty kill unit for the Bruins and they were able to help Dafoe keep the Sabres at bay and preserve the victory for Boston.

Sabres Talk

Dafoe was definitely the better goalie on the ice New Year's Day. He made 33 saves and made Hasek look out of his league.

"The best chance they had of getting back in the game was, obviously, a six on three and they took full advantage of it," commented Dafoe. "I've got to tell you, we were very fortunate to come away with that win because the pressure they had down low in the last minute was unbelievable."

Erik Rasmussen takes to the air as he soars over Bruins goalie Byron Dafoe during second period action.
[AP Photo/David Duprey]

"We eventually got them on the ropes," Ruff said. "We got a couple of calls and a couple of power plays and it made a difference."

The Bruins hadn't had too much success in HSBC Arena until they were able to start the New Year with an impressive win. In their last 20 visits to the Buffalo Arena, the Bruins were 1-8-1. They hadn't won in Buffalo since March 21, 1998.

"It's nice to win here," said Samsonov, who notched the first and last Bruins goals. "We had a pretty bad record against Buffalo. It's the way to start the new year."

The Sabres had a glorious chance to enter the New Millennium in first place in the Eastern Conference. But as has been the case so often with this team, they looked a gift horse in the mouth.

"We had fun in the final 8 minutes and have to solve why we didn't play like that in the first 52 minutes," Jason Woolley said.

"We made some big mistakes," Ruff said. "We had a better effort than we had against Ottawa. But we didn't get the result. We skated fairly well, but we had some guys that just got dead out beat defensively. We had three great chances in the last 5 minutes, however if you don't hit the net, you're not going to score."

"If you get beat as a defenseman one-on-one, somebody's got to bail you out. Your partner's got to bail you out, somebody's got to be coming back harder."

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