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Sabres Central

Sabres can Canucks with Heinze's hat trick
By Rick Anderson
March 17, 2001

No player the Buffalo Sabres ever acquired in a trade has had this much immediate impact. Steve Heinze scored a hat trick Friday night in Buffalo's HSBC Arena to help his Sabres beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-2. That makes four goals in two games since coming over from Columbus in a trade on Tuesday. The hat trick gives him 26 goals for the season, tying his all-time seasonal high that he set back in 1997-98 with the Boston Bruins.

Once again it was Heinze who scored the first goal of the game.

Luck of the Irish

J.P. Dumont gets ready to pounce on the rebound off Canucks goalie Bob Essensa in the first period of the Sabres 4-2 win.
[AP Photo/Don Heupel]

After the game, Heinze was interviewed by Empire Sports Danny Gare. Gare showed him a table of many hats collected that were thrown on the ice after he scored the hat trick. Gare told him to pick one. Heinze picked the two-foot tall St. Patrick's Day hat and put it on top of his clean-shaven head.

"Hopefully I'll get a little luck of the Irish," joked Heinze.

Talking about his great start, Heinze said, "It's a good start, and there's hopefully more to come. My linemates played great and everything was just clicking for me."

Saturday night, the Sabres travel to Washington to play the Capitals. Heinze is hoping to keep his hot scoring touch alive against the Southeast Division leading Caps. Joining him will be former Sabre disgruntled Donald Audette. Audette was obtained from the Atlanta Thrashers in exchange for a fourth round draft choice and prospect center Kamil Piros. Audette completed his two-game suspension he received after hitting Calgary's Ronald Petrovicky with a stick to the head last weekend.

Audette will have his work cut out for him if he wants to make a similar debut like Heinze. Four goals in two games is a hard feat to duplicate by anybody. The Sabres will need all the firepower they can get against their nemesis Capitals.

If Audette can also get his scoring touch going, it could start a new offensive attack for the Sabres that could propel them through the playoffs.

West Coast offense

"We've gone to the West Coast offense," dead panned Sabres coach Lindy Ruff.

I don't know if you can explain it. I don't think he's going to get three every night, no."

But there's always that threat.

The Sabres started pouring it on thick with the Heinze near the end of the first period. Doug Gilmour, who got a goal and a assist, threaded a nice pass over to Heinze who beat Bob Essensa at the 16:17 mark, making it the second straight game that Heinze scored the opening goal.

With around 16 seconds left in the first period, the Canucks tied it up when Markus Naslund got a pass over to Matt Cooke, who beat Dimitri Kalinin and put a backhand past Dominik Hasek.

The second period was scoreless until near the very end. J.P. Dumont was in the penalty box and as he came out, he picked up the puck and fed it to Erik Rasmussen. Rasmussen and Gilmour went down on a two-on-one and Gilmour was given a nice pass by his winger and he slipped it behind Essensa for a 2-1 with only 4 seconds left in the second stanza.

It turned into the Steve Heinze show in the third period. Heinze put the Canucks away when he made a spectacular goal. Vaclav Varada sent the puck to Alexei Zhitnik at the point and the Sabres defenseman shot it on goal. Heinze was tripped up while heading for the front of the net, and while falling down, he somehow managed to take a backhanded swipe at the puck. It got through Essensa's pads and trickled over the goal line. That goal shows the determination and drive of the Sabres newest gunner.

Heinze got the hat trick when he picked up a loose puck in the Sabres zone just as Essensa went off the ice for the extra attacker. Heinze skated down the right side and appeared as if he was going to going to pass it off to the trailer, but decided to skate in and deked the Canuck defenseman, firing it past him into the open net for his 26th of the year. And the hats came sailing onto the ice like the snow falling outside HSBC Arena at that time. He picked the creme of the litter, a long tubular St. Patrick's Day green hat. And the Irish in the crowd went wild!

Naslund injured

Markus Naslund, who would later break his right leg in a freak accident, puts a check on Sabres winger Vaclav Varada in the first period. Naslund would break his leg after getting tangled with Sabres defenseman Rhett Warrener in the third period. He is out for the rest of the season..
[AP Photo/Don Heupel]

Naslund suffered a broken right leg in a serious mishap in the third period. While fighting for the puck with Rhett Warrener, Naslund fell to the ice and twisted his leg in the process, breaking it. He was sent to Buffalo General Hospital and put into a cast. The 41-goal scorer, who is tied for the third in the NHL, is lost for the season.

Warrener was unaware of how Naslund got injured.

"We kind of all met in the corner," said Warrener. "I pushed back, (Naslund) was kind of leaning on me. ... I don't know."

The loss is going to be devastating for the Canucks who are in the battle of their lives to make the playoffs.

"It's tough," said Canucks defenseman Ed Jovanovski. "He's a top scorer in the league. He's a big part of this team's success. The only thing we can do is do it (make the playoffs) for him."

"We'll have to come together more as a group,"said center Andrew Cassels . "We have 10 games left to make the playoffs. We can't sit and dwell on it."

"You don't like to see that happen," added Ruff. "He was having one unbelievable year. It was just a freak accident."

Sabres Talk

Heinze, who was destined to sit out the post season with the Columbus Blue Jackets, suddenly has a new lease on life after the regular season with the Sabres.

"My season down in Columbus would have been over April 8," described Heinze. "All of a sudden, now I'm in the playoff hunt and I have a chance to get my name on the Cup. That's what we all play for is to get that chance."

"He's playing unbelievable," said Warrener about his new teammate. "He's getting to the net, he's getting rebounds, he's battling."

"I'm trying not too much to think about it," said Heinze about his sudden outburst of goals. "I'm just trying to make plays. On the first goal, Dougie Gilmour gave me a great pass. There were some nice plays by my teammates, and fortunately they went in."

Heinze played a lot against the Sabres when he was with the Bruins and is suddenly fitting in with his former rivals.

"Yea, I learned to like them (the Sabres) real quick," quipped Heinze. "We were enemies for a long time, the big rivalry with Boston. It is a hard working team, it's an easy team to jump into, just because everybody does their job so well."


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