Site hosted by Build your free website today!
Sabres Central

Hometown boy slices up Sabres
By Rick Anderson
March 5, 2002

The Oilers' Ethan Moreau ties of Buffalo's Maxim Afinogenov during a first period scrimmage for the puck. The Oilers shut out the Sabres 3-0 and practically eliminated any possible playoff hopes for Buffalo.
[AP Photo/David Duprey]

Todd Marchant loves coming back to Buffalo to put on a show for his family and friends. He did more than that Monday night in Buffalo’s HSBC Arena. His performance literally destroyed any small hopes the Buffalo Sabres have of making the playoffs this year. Marchant scored two huge goals against Sabres goalie Martin Biron as the Edmonton Oilers glided to a slick 3-0 thrashing of the Sabres.

Marchant stuck a sword into the Sabres playoff hopes with his typical brilliant play against Buffalo. His parents, who have season tickets for the Sabres, were very proud of their son. Marchant always gets the adrenaline pumped up when he faces the team he grew up idolizing. He has scored 6 goals and 12 points in the 12 games against his childhood team.

"It's a great feeling," responded Marchant to the question about sticking needles, pins and swords into the Sabres when his Oilers faces them. "I always get a little extra pumped up to play against my hometown team."

The Sabres had not only Marchant to contend with, but the refs and video judges also. The Oilers first two goals could have been called back as Marchant’s first goal came the instant the Buffalo net was jarred off by a Ryan Smyth, who slammed into the net just as the puck went over the line. The ref ruled a goal and the video judge said the replay was inconclusive, so the goal stood.

Marchant not only had the help of the ref and video replay judge, but the two Buffalo defenders on the play. His shot deflected off Rhett Warrener's stick and the hip of Jay McKee before entering the transplanted net.

Then Sabres coach Lindy Ruff really got infuriated when a second straight goal-crashing incident led to the Oilers’ second goal.

Mike Comrie got around Sabres defenseman Jason Woolley, lifted a shot that bounced off Biron’s shoulder and dropped into the crease. Comrie smashed into Biron (which should have resulted in a penalty for goalie interference)and “directed” the puck with his skate into the net. With Comrie’s forward momentum, he not only took the puck, but Biron and the net with him. Once again, the video replay went the Oilers’ way.

Ruff displayed his most intense anger of the year, repeatedly slamming the players’ gate in disapproval. He not only wanted the goal disallowed, but a penalty on Comrie for goalie interference. Ruff got neither.

Ruff finally got referee Rob Schick to defend his second straight inaccurate ruling.

"He came over and said the puck was in the net before Biron even got touched," retorted Ruff about the explanation he got. "That's an outright lie. I saw the replay and he definitely made contact with Marty."

Comrie, taking a page out of Patriot quarterback Bradey’s repertoire, said with a smile, "I was trying to stop. But your momentum, when you're on skates, you just keep going."

The Oilers iced the game with their third goal less than a minute after the controversial “goal.” At the 5:17 mark of the third period, Marchant intercepted a blind pass by Erik Rasmussen and the Williamsville native broke in all alone on Biron. After the Sabres beleaguered goalie committed, Marchant backhanded the puck into the net.

"This is huge," elated Marchant about the huge win. "As a team, we've struggled to find a way to win games. Tonight, it was just a great collective effort."

“Pathetic” effort by Sabres

"After the first period we were pathetic," admitted Ruff. "We're not giving up yet. There's still a lot of fight in the dog. But tonight the dog had its tail between its two legs."

The Dog of a team called the Sabres may have had its last bark in the playoff race for the last spot in the East. With only 21 games left, it is still estimated that Buffalo has to win 27 out of those games in order to qualify. Though not mathematically eliminated, the Sabres may be morally eliminated. Sabres captain Stu Barnes called for a players’ only meeting after the game. Whether it is a bit too late in the game for such an attempt to inspire the placid team remains to be seen.

"We played poorly, and it's no secret. I mean everyone who was involved or watched the game knew that," reflected Barnes. "We came up against a team that was real hungry and wanted to win the game and they came out and outworked us and won the game."

The real star of the game, outside of hometown boy Marchant, was rookie goalie Jussi Markkanen, who made 25 saves in recording a shutout. Once again, the Sabres came up against a backup goalie and made him look like the second coming of Bernie Parent. Markkanen was replacing Tommy Salo, who may still be licking his wounds after giving up Belarus’s winning goal that eliminated Sweden from the Olympics.

"It's great to see a guy like Jussi play as well as he is," lauded Oilers coach Craig MacTavish "It's a double-pronged benefit, because we know we're getting the wins with Jussi and Tommy's getting the rest."

Meanwhile, Biron who made 30 saves, was pulled in favor of Bob Essensa after giving up the third goal. Essensa was perfect in his brief appearance. The Sabres, who must be cleaning off the cobwebs from their golf clubs in anticipation to a early start of their golf season.

"We need just to win. It's the same as before," Warrener said. "If we can get on a roll it's still there for us. But the game gets harder and harder, and with efforts like that nothing's going to get accomplished."



Copyright © 2002 Sabres Central, all rights reserved