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Sabres Central

Panthers explode against Sabres in third period
By Rick Anderson
January 31, 2001

Dominik Hasek, who had one of his worst games ever, gets rammed into his own net by Panthers defenseman Robert Svehla in the second period. Hasek took exception to the hit and it started a brawl. Hasek allowed 4 goals in the third period.
[REUTERS PHOTO/Colin Braley]

Something has to change! The Buffalo Sabres are going in the wrong direction fast and if something isn't done soon, they may find themselves out of a playoff spot.

The Sabres continued their decent in the standings as they lost to the inept Florida Panthers 5-2 Wednesday night in Miami. The Sabres had a complete meltdown in the third period, allowing 4 unanswered goals as Dominik Hasek was clearly struggling in the Sabres net.

Someone or something has poked a hole in the Sabres bubble and they are taking a nose dive in the standings. Back on January 14, the Sabres were 22-15-5 and only 2 points out for first place in the Northeast Division. Tonight, the Toronto Maple Leafs moved 5 points ahead of the Sabres and the idle Ottawa Senators remain 10 in front of the Sabres. Meanwhile, the Bruins are just 1 point behind the 7th seed Sabres in the Eastern Conference. Buffalo is now 25-19-5, and things are not looking any brighter in the future. The Sabres play the lowly Tampa Bay Lightning Thursday night and the Sabres history with weaker teams is not good.

House of Horrors for Hasek

Hasek will probably remember the third period of this game for years, although it's one he'd like to forget immediately. In what was probably his worst outing in several years, Hasek gave up 3 goals in just 1:47. It was a bang, bang, bang effect that must have gotten Hasek punch drunk.

After playing a solid game for the first two periods, the Sabres as a team disintegrated into Swiss cheese, especially in goal. With Buffalo up 2-1 and looking to gain two crucial points to get back into the Northeastern hunt, the Sabres had their biggest collapse of the season.

It all started with tough guy Peter Worrell. Worrell slipped behind the Sabres net, regained his feet and swatted at the puck to the left of Hasek. The puck bounced off Hasek's leg and made the back of the net. The time of the goal was 6:16 and suddenly the Sabres would have to work for their two points. They didn't even work up a sweat!

"That goal didn't bother me, that was just bad luck,"commented Hasek. "What bothers me is the first and the third goal."

Just 1:12 after that, Pavel Bure came in up the middle just crossed the Sabres blue line and let rip a shot that Hasek just waived his glove at. It went top shelf to Hasek's left.

"I was just too slow, just too late," said an aging Hasek.

Thirty five seconds later the Panthers were up 4-2 when Olli Jokinen got in alone on Hasek and put it by the bewildered Sabres goaltender.

Bure scored his 31st of the season and second of the night with just a little over 3 minutes remaining in the contest when he broke through the Sabres porous defense and slipped the puck 5-hole through Hasek's pads.

"That was the best third period of the year," said Bure. "To score four goals,- it can't get any better than that."

It was amazing that Sabres coach Lindy Ruff didn't even make a move to replace Hasek with Martin Biron at the start of Hasek's troubles. When the Panthers made it 3-2, the time was ripe for a goaltending change. Ruff never pulled the trigger. With that in mind, it wouldn't be too out of character for Ruff to start Hasek again Thursday when they play the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Sabres solid for 2/3 of game

Buffalo began this game as if they meant business. Chris Gratton got the Sabres on the scoreboard just 3:33 into the game when his hard slap shot from the above the left circle beat Luongo.

Florida tied the game 9:06 into 2nd period when Marcus Nilson got a nice pass from Bure, and he flipped it over Hasek. Six minutes later, the Sabres took a 2-1 lead in the second period when Erik Rasmussen put away a loose puck that was laying in front of Roberto Luongo. The puck was just waiting for somebody to do something with it and Rasmussen put a backhander in the wide open net.

The Sabres escaped the second period with the lead. They had put 24 shots on Luongo and appeared ready to cruise through the third period for a 2-1 win. But the Panthers were just luring the Sabres in for the kill.

Luongo trades jerseys with Hasek

Whatever happened between the second and third periods in the two dressing rooms will remain unknown, but apparently Hasek and Luongo switched uniforms before they took the ice for the final period. Luongo played like Hasek of old and Hasek played like, well.....

Luongo was pelted with 16 shots in the final stanza and he was making circus saves throughout the entire period keeping the Sabres off the board. Meanwhile, Hasek turned into mush and allowed practically everything thrown at him into the net. The first shot of goal in the third period by the Panthers was Worrell's third goal of the season. After that, Ruff would have been better putting a third defenseman on the ice to protect the crease area.

While Hasek was faltering, Luongo was becoming even stronger. All told, the Sabres threw 40 shots in Luongo's direction during the game. The Panther's goalie stopped everything the Sabres could launch after Rasmussen's goal.

The last time these two clubs met was back in Buffalo on January 19, when the now injured Denis Hamel blasted one past Luongo with only 7.9 seconds remaining to win the game for the Sabres 1-0.

"It's good to know that I could bounce back from the last time, and that game." said Luongo. " It was nice to get this kind of support tonight."

Ruff tried to explain the disappointing third period.

"They got a couple bad ones on us, I think Dom lost a little focus," said Ruff. "We tried to keep pouring it on, but the kid at the other end played pretty good. ."

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