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Sabres Central

Bryon stares down Biron in showdown
By Rick Anderson
March 22, 2002

Sabres goalie Martin Biron dives for the puck in a desperate, but successful, attempt to stop Bruins center Brian Rolston from scoring in the first period. Tim Connolly closes in to prevent any rebounds.
[AP Photo/Don Heupel]

It was once again a battle of the goalies. When Martin Biron and Byron Dafoe faceoff against each other, you can be assured of some mighty fine goaltending. That held true to form once again in Buffalo’s HSBC Arena Thursday night as Dafoe outdueled Biron as the Boston Bruins inched past the Buffalo Sabres 2-1.

Dafoe had to be at his absolute best when the Sabres blistered him with 16 shots in the final period in their desperate attempt to tie the game. Dafoe was up to the task and more. He was a rock in goal and because of that the Sabres hopes of salvaging a dismal season seem to be waning.

Biron was almost as good as Dafoe, making 25 saves. But it took just one mistake and that cost the Sabres a possible tie or even victory. The goalie who has to fill the huge skates of Dominik Hasek has been playing spectacular goaltending as of late. But against a team the caliber of Boston, even one mistake can kill you. It certainly did that on Thursday night.

The key play of the game came at the 14 minute mark of the second stanza.

Nick Boynton saw a huge opportunity when the puck came free near the right faceoff circle. Boynton’s eyes must have become as big as hockey pucks as he wound up to take a wicked slap shot. He not only hit the puck but broke his stick in half in the process. The puck kind of knuckle-balled through Biron’s pads as he went down to block the shot. , who broke his stick and then watched his shot dribble into the net. Boynton skated towards the bench, not knowing that the puck somehow got past Biron

"It came up perfect,” Boynton described getting the puck in clear view of Biron. “I got all excited to step into one and then my stick broke. Hey, what can I say."

Bruins coach Robbie Ftorek described how Boynton expression went from sorrow to joy.

"That was part of his ploy, he told me," Ftorek said. "He was disgusted because of his shot. You could just tell that he was really bummed. Then all of a sudden he saw everyone coming and realized it was in."

One mistake by Biron and that was all she wrote for the Sabres chances of winning the game and possibly gaining a playoff spot. By losing, the Sabres drop down to 11th place in the wild scramble to the final seed in the East as both the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals came up with key victories to forge ahead of the Sabres.

Lord Byron comes up huge

Dafoe, who hails from Sussex, England, was a king in goal against the Sabres and that fact was not left unnoticed by his coach.

"We've asked Byron to do a little bit too much in the last couple of games," admitted Ftorek.. "In the third, we asked him to do way too much, but he's there to do it."

The Sabers peppered him with everything they could in the final period and nothing got past Lord Byron. He had them shaking their heads as he made save after save. Dafoe was up to the task.

"I made the saves when I had to, and we killed the penalties as we had to and got a big win for us," related Dafoe. "Everyone's just starting to turn into that playoff mode where you can't expect to score four or five goals a night, and you can't expect to give up three or four. I think all and all, everyone's getting their game better."

Sabres coach Lindy Ruff thought the Sabres should have given the same effort in the first two periods. He gave them a good going over between the second and third periods.

"Obviously, what I said before didn't work," said Ruff referring to the urgency of the Sabres situation. "At this time of the year, it's the players' responsibility to be ready to play, to be ready to do those things that I had to bring up after the second period."

The Sabres were flat against the top team in the Eastern Division, something that is absolutely inexcusable this time of year.

"We're in a situation where freak goals can kill us," added Ruff. "At this time of year, it's the players' responsibility to be ready to play. There wasn't a lot of good going on."

Big Bruins second period does in Sabres

The second period was the worst for the Sabres. Sergei Samsonov picked up the puck around center ice after the Sabres couldn’t get it out of their zone and he weaved through a maze of Sabres and pulled Biron out to his right. Samsonov deked to his left and went right, shooting it high over the fallen goalie at the 6:49 mark. The Sabres tied it up less than a minute later when Maxim Afinogenov shot the puck from an almost impossible angle, it hit Dafoe’s skate and trickled into the net. That was all she wrote for the Sabres scoring.

With the game tied at 1, Biron had to make the save on Boynton. He didn’t and that may have cost the Sabres any post season aspirations.

Sabres Talk

Newly acquired Bob Corkum could see the Sabres situation from a different vantage point.

"If we would have played that way in the first and second period, we would have had a different result," related Corkum. "It was too little too late. It's a good team over there. I think we gave them too much respect."

A veteran Sabres observer, Rhett Warrener, is getting frustrated with the Sabrse inconsistent play.

"We come in and play well (against the Senators) and come into another game and take a couple periods off,” fumed Warrener. “It doesn't matter if we go out and prove in the third that we can play and we should win. By that time, it's too late. We're cutting our own throats."

Ales Kotalik, the rookie called up from Rochester this week, has been turning some heads with his fiesty play.

"I like the way he handles the puck," lauded Ruff. "If we're going to keep him here, we're going to play him. If there comes a point where he's not playing well, he'll come out."

Meanwhile, Jason Woolley remains in the stands and is none too happy with his situation. He wanted to be traded, and when that didn’t happen, has been pleading his case to play with Ruff.

"I have to handle this the way I handle any bump in the road," admitted Woolley, referring to his situation. "Things can change really fast. One guy goes down or we don't play well and, boom, you're back in. One thing you don't have to worry about is me being a cancer in the room. It's one reason I'm still around here. Lindy knows what I can do in the playoffs. If we get there, it's not a bad insurance policy."

As for not being traded, Woolley is very upset he wasn’t moved.

"I just wish I was a fly on the wall," related Woolley, wondering what was said between Regier and possible teams interested in him. "I really have a tough time believing someone didn't want me. I wish they let my agent get a little more involved because I know the calls were there. It didn't go exactly the way I wanted to, but now I step into a different mode here. You have to be ready."


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