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Sabres Central

Hasek Defuses Lightning
By Rick Anderson
January 17, 2001

Dominik Hasek has finally stolen a game. The Dominator was in the form has hasn't displayed in well over a year, making 40 saves as the Buffalo Sabres defused the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-1.

Dominik Hasek poke checks the puck away from Lightning right wing Martin St. Louis as he attempts to score on the Sabres goalie.
[AP Photo/David Duprey]

Stu Barnes netted two goals and Miroslav Satan had one goal and two assists to get all the scoring the Sabres needed with Hasek back in dominating form. Hasek came just 9:24 from posting his second straight shutout. Maybe what the Sabres netminder needs is to get blasted with 40 or more shots a game to take charge again.

The Sabres allowed 40 shots on goal for the first time this season. To allow a weak team like Tampa Bay to have a such an onslaught of rubber against their goalie is almost unimaginable. The Sabres came out sloppy, probably tired from their long road trip out west and it continued for most of the game. If it wasn't for the outstanding goaltending of Hasek and a couple shots that got through Lightning's goalie Kevin Weekes, the game could have ended up much differently for the Sabres.

"You can't understate the effort that Dom made," said Barnes. "He played unbelievable. Forty-one shots, quality shots. I don't know that a lot of teams do that (against the Sabres)."

With the victory, the Sabres were able to pull even with the Toronto Maple Leafs for second place in the Northeast Division. The Ottawa Senators had a melt down to the Los Angeles Kings, losing to them in overtime 7-6 after having a huge 5-1 lead. The Sens still gained a point in the overtime loss and lead the Sabres and Leafs by 3 points.

Ex-Sabres Homecoming

It was homecoming for four former Sabres. Last March, the Sabres traded away Brian Holzinger, Cory Sarich and Wayne Primeau for Chris Gratton. This was the first time those three have returned since that trade. Also included in the mix is former Sabres assistant coach John Tortorella, who was named the Lightning coach ten days ago. Tortorella had spent 6 years with the Sabres as an assistant and two with the Phoenix Coyotes. Last season he replaced John Muckler as the coach of the Rangers for the last four games of the regular season. Back in 1996, he led the Rochester Americans to the Calder Cup trophy.

Holzinger had a homecoming present for Sabres forward J.P. Dumont late in the game. Holzinger came up behind Dumont and slammed his head up against the glass. Dumont was on the ice for agonizing moments before he finally made it to the bench. Holzinger was given a major and a game misconduct for his treatment of a former teammate.


Maxim Afinogenov gets a shot off that Tampa goalie Kevin Weeks stops in the second period of the Sabres 3-1 victory.
[AP Photo/David Duprey]

Barnes has been one of the hardest working players on the Sabres this season and his efforts are starting to pay off. He has been the best player on the ice for a vast majority of the games this season, but has had little to show for it. But recently the puck has been starting to go in and he had his hand in all three Sabres goals. Barnes opened the scoring 5:31 into 1st period when he banged home a shot after getting a nice pass from J.P. Dumont through crease.

Nine minutes into the second stanza, Barnes was at it again. He threw a pass to Satan coming down the right side. Satan skated through the right faceoff circle and shot from the center's red dot. His shot hit Weekes' stick and went 5-hole, through the his legs and the Sabres were up 2-0. That was the first shot on goal the Sabres had in the period, as the Lightning were completely outplaying Buffalo.

With Jason Woolley off for tripping 5 minutes into the third, the Sabres got control of the puck and Jay McKee took a shot from the point. Barnes was able to get between the goalie and McKee and got his stick on the shot to slightly redirect it past Weekes.

Dominik's Zone

It may still be too early to say that Hasek's game is definitely back, but it's close to where he was two years ago when he was considered one of the best in the league. Hasek has now played three consecutive solid games and could have easily had a shutout. But Primeau started the play that pierced Hasek's hopes of back-to-back shutouts. Primeau got the puck over to Sheldon Keefe, who weaved between the defensemen and got in on Hasek, throwing it past the fallen goalie to finally get the Lightning on the board.

"I wish we could have helped him out and gotten him another shutout because he probably deserved it," sighed Sabres defenseman Rhett Warrener. The Dominator has always said that he likes lots of work to get him into the game. That he had right from the get-go in this one. The Lightning stormed around Hasek hitting him with thunderbolts left and right in the first period as Hasek stopped 12 shots. The second period was worse as Tampa Bay bistered him with 17 shots. The Sabres didn't get one shot on goal until 9:07 of the period and that was Satan's shot that should have been stopped by Weekes. Tampa Bay got 12 more shots on the Sabres netminder in the final period, but one finally broke his shutout bid.

"I didn't expect to be so busy today, for sure," said Hasek in a statement that's sure to be posted on the Lightning bulletin board before the February 25 rematch of the two teams. "They're not one of the best teams in the NHL; they're one of the worst teams."

When asked if he thought if Hasek was approaching his top form again, Barnes answered, "I think so. I don't know if any of us lost any confidence in him throughout the season. We know that we've got Dom, we've got Marty... we're very fortunate we feel to have great goaltending with both Dom and Marty."

Sabres Talk

Everyone seemed to have this game chalked up as a win even before the teams took to the ice, especially the Sabres themselves. But the Lightning came out throwing thunder bolts and shocked not only the Sabres but the 16,309 fans at the game.

"They played pretty well in the last couple of games," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff remarked about the surprising play of the Lightning. "I thought it was a tough one. We had a decent first period and a horrible second period. We were pretty sloppy in the second period. We lost a lot of battles in that period. We bounced back in the third. But we found a way to win it, and that's the important part."

Maybe the Sabres learned something from the Tampa attack.

"We need to take a page out of Tampa Bay's book," McKee said. "They shot the puck from everywhere, and they came hard at the start. They were throwing pucks at the net and driving to the net, which you need to score goals, especially on a guy like Dom."

"We had some opportunities and made some very nice plays, but we just didn't bury it," chipped in Ruff. "I thought we made three nice plays. They collapsed three guys and didn't leave us much options. But I thought we could have gotten one."

Dominik Hasek gets ready to catch the puck as Lightning left wing Fredrik Modin zeros in to get a possible rebound. Hasek made 40 saves in the game and stole one for the Sabres.
[AP Photo/David Duprey]

Former Sabre defenseman Cory Sarich was impressed with his ex-teammate.

"We did everything we could. We shelled him tonight," Sarich said. "He played an excellent game."

The man who received a major and game misconduct for his hit on Dumont was also impressed with Hasek.

"A couple of times, we had him down and out and couldn't get it by him," said Holzinger. "For whatever reason, maybe it wasn't our night."

All the Lightning were shaking their heads after the game, realizing that if it had been another goalie in the nets, they surely would have won the game.

"You have to try and not get frustrated and keep on pressing, but we were getting to the point where we were like `hey give us a break," Brad Richards said. "But that's why he is who he is. You've got to give him credit."

"People here have been waiting for him to show up like this and he was the big difference tonight," said former Sabres assistant and now Lightning coach Tortorella.

"He was the game for them," analyzed Tampa Bay forward Martin St. Louis. "Geez, 41 shots."

The Sabres also praised the man who for seasons had carried them on his back.

"Dominik was there for us," said Satan. "They played a good game, and thanks to the goaltending we won this game."

"He's been battling through it," Ruff said about the problems Hasek has had all season with consistency. "There have been doubts. A lot of people have questioned him, but he keeps battling through it. That was a huge effort."

Hasek knows that he finally pulled off one of the miracles that is expected from him, especially considering that he's the top paid player on the team, making $7.5 million this year.

"We didn't play very well for sure," Hasek said. "It really doesn't matter. We find a way to win."


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