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Sabres Central

Sabres break winless skid with victory on Long Island
By Rick Anderson
January 28, 2001

Dmitri Kalinin and the Isles Bill Muckalt chase after the puck in first period action. The Sabres beat the Islanders 2-1.
[AP Photo/Ed Betz]

Maybe this is a start. Scoring two goals isn't a milestone, but these days, Sabres fans will take anything they can get. The Buffalo Sabres beat the New York Islanders 2-1 in Uniondale Saturday night to break their 3-game losing streak. It also marked the first time in 5 games the Sabres were able to score more than one goal.

Dave Andreychuk and Stu Barnes scored all the goals the Sabres needed as Martin Biron, making a rare appearance in goal, limited the Islanders to just one goal. Biron made 23 saves and was solid in his first appearance since the West Coast trip in which he lost to San Jose.

Rookie Rick DiPietro, last June's No. 1 overall draft choice, made his first start in the nets for the Islanders and had to be sharp to keep the Sabres from scoring a ton of goals. DiPietro made 30 saves and had the Sabres shooters believe that they were facing Bryon Dafoe again.

Powerplay goal again

The Sabres scored on a powerplay for their second straight game. This time they had a two man advantage when they scored the game's first goal. With Brad Isbister and Eric Cairns off for roughing, the Sabres finally capitalized with a powerplay goal. Chris Gratton got the puck inside the blue line and he allowed Dave Andreychuk to station himself in front of DiPietro before taking his shot. Andreychuk did the job Sabres acquired him for and that's to score the garbage goals in front of the net. Andreychuk tipped the shot five hole at the 5:14 mark of the first stanza. It marked the second straight game the Sabres scored with a man advantage.

I saw Andy (going to the front) and I just wristed it to him," described Gratton. "He has such great hand-eye coordination I just wanted to get it through."

Shutout streak broken

The Sabres had shutout the Islanders in the last two meetings between the clubs. After two periods, Martin Biron had the Isles shooting goose eggs again. He was in goal on December 30, when the Sabres beat New York 2-0. Hasek posted the first shutout at the HSBC Arena on November 19 as the Sabres won 3-0.
Rick Dipietro, making his first NHL start, turns aside one of the 30 shots he faced in a 2-1 loss to the Sabres..
[AP Photo/Ed Betz]

Eight periods on scoreless hockey is a difficult feat to accomplish, no matter what team is the opposition. It all ended just 17 seconds into the third period as Biron's second straight shutout bid against the Islanders was broken. As fate would have it, DiPietro started off the play and was awarded an assist. He sent Claude Lapointe off with the puck and Lapointe skated down left wing until he passed over to a streaking Dave Scatchard. Scatchard tipped the puck past Biron ending 160 minutes and 17 seconds of being blanked by Buffalo goalies.

Things looked gloomy for the Sabres at that point. After nursing a 1-0 lead for most of the game, the Sabres now faced the prospect of the Islanders gaining the momentum and taking the lead, similar to what the Bruins had done the night before. However, in a complete shift of Sabres demeanor, Buffalo roared right back and took the lead again just 57 seconds after the Isles had tied it up.

Vaclav Varada, who has been very quiet the past few weeks, skated to the front of the net while pulling in front of the defenseman. Varada took a shot at DiPietro and it hit the skate of Barnes as he was skating towards the goal and went into the net. That turned out to be the game winner as Biron shutout the Isles the rest of the way.

"Our line really has to do that more often," said Barnes about the line's effort to produce the winning goal. "We had success down low cycling it when were together earlier in the season."

Hamel injured

Denis Hamel, who seems to be the only Sabre able to score goals these days, received what is believed to be an ACL injury to his right knee when Zdeno Chara, the Isles giant 6-9" 250-pound defenseman, landed on Hamel's leg while being checked into the boards. Hamel is to have his knee examined when the team arrives in Buffalo.

"I felt it right away," commented Hamel. "After that I didn't want to move it because I knew it would be more pain. Hopefully, I'll find out it's not as bad as they think when I see the doctor tomorrow."

Hamel, who scored the Sabres lone goal against the Bruins and also the only goal a week ago against Florida, will be sorely missed. He has 8 goals in 40 games and has not only provided a scoring touch, but has shown increased physical play as of late. Against the Bruins, he waylaid Andrei Kovalenko, sending him to the ice with a truculent check.

As the team departs to Florida for its games with Florida Wednesday and Tampa Bay Thursday, Hamel will be heading to Buffalo to have an MRI done on his ailing knee to get a full prognosis. With the initial report of a torn ACL, it appears as if Hamel could may be done for the remainder of the regular season. There is a chance he could return in time for the final week, but it all hinges on how severe the injury actually is.

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Biron, who started his first game in the NHL as an 18-year old whippersnapper, was impressed with the play of DiPietro.

"For a 19-year-old to come into the NHL and play like that in his first game is just outstanding," marveled Biron. "He made a few good saves and moved the puck really well."

DiPietro came up big in the second period when he snared a sailing shot by Curtis Brown and also shutdown Varada on a breakaway at the 18:08 mark with a pad save.

"I was pretty nervous," DiPietro said. "I had the butterflies going during the national anthem." With around 4 minutes left in the game, DiPietro had to leave when he got cramps and had to take intravenous fluids to rectify the situation.

"I got in late last night, and I don't think I caught up to my foods," explained DiPietro. "I have to learn to take more water or Gatorade during the game."

Islanders coach Butch Goring cited the lack of discipline as the team's downfall against the Sabres.

"We took four offensive penalties tonight," fumed Goring. "We didn't take any against the Rangers (on Friday night), and we won the game. It's very frustrating."

Meanwhile, Ruff was happy about the comeback after the Isles had tied it.

"We answered the bell after they scored the goal with a real good shift," Ruff said. "We played as hard as we did (Friday) night and took advantage of some breaks. Obviously we had some other great chances we didn't capitalize on. But we still found a way to win it."

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