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Sabres Central

Sabres mulch Leafs 3-0
By Rick Anderson
March 21, 2001

They called this complete domination.

The Leafs Curtis Joseph makes one of his 32 saves Tuesday night in Buffalo's HSBC Arena on Donald Audette. The Sabres were able to beat Joseph 3 times and cruised to a 3-0 victory over the Maple Leafs.
[AP Photo/Don Heupel]

The Buffalo Sabres continued their hot streak Tuesday night in the HSBC Arena and shut down their neighbors to the North, the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-0 before another sellout crowd. This game was clearly one of the best games the team has played all season. Dominik Hasek recorded his 9th shutout of the season, but didn't have to do too much to earn it this time. His team, and especially Alexei Zhitnik, helped him earn his 54th career shutout.

Hasek faced only 16 shots by the Leafs and most of them were from long range and Toronto didn't have too many great opportunities. The biggest chance they did get was when Hasek was out of his net and Zhitnik happened to take over for the goalie in the nets and stopped a sure goal when he went down to block the shot.

"Of course it keeps you nervous," commented Hasek about not facing too many shots. "It was pretty boring, but you have to keep yourself focused because you can make one mistake and all of a sudden the momentum changes."

Sabres take charge from the get-go

The Sabres came out loaded for Leafs and raked them in from the outset. The Sabres racked up 18 shots on Leafs goalie Curtis Joseph and CuJo was the early difference in the game as had he not made astonishing saves, the Sabres clearly would have had at least a 3-0 lead after the first stanza. In the first two periods alone, the Sabres peppered CuJo with 32 shots and looked as if the Toronto goalie was going to steal this one for the Leafs.

"Curtis, he was the best player on the ice," lauded Hasek. "If it wasn't for him, it could've been 7-0."

It wasn't until 12:58 into 1st period before the Sabres finally cracked the barrier that CuJo had put in front of the net. Rhett Warrener got his third of the season after Steve Heinze got the puck into the slot area from behind the net. Warrener charged in and took a wack at the puck. It glanced off Cory Cross's skate and went past Joseph.

Warrener's shot was the 17th of the period for the Sabres, while Toronto only had one at that point.

In the second period, the Sabres made it 2-0 when Dimitri Kalinin banged home a rebound of J.P. Dumont's shot past Joseph 9:34 into 2nd period. By the end of the period, the Sabres had an unbelievable 32-9 advantage in shots over their rivals from Toronto. It was obvious that Buffalo would sit on their 2-0 lead in the final period and that's exactly what they did when they managed only 3 more shots on Joseph.

One of those three shots did manage to get past CuJo and it was none other than Heinze again doing the damage. So far since acquired from Columbus a week ago in a trade, Heinze has scored 5 goals in 4 games. Not too shabby for a player the Sabres only had to give up a third round draft choice for. It was Heinze's 27th of the season.

"The less I think about it, the better off I am," said Heinze once again about his sudden success with the Sabres. "I'm going to stay relaxed, stay focused and keep working hard. The puck's bouncing for me right now. I don't think I'm trying any harder or doing anything different, except the guys I'm playing with seem to be clicking."

The Sabres as a whole played one of their best games of the season. They had been shutout themselves the last time they had played the Leafs and were determined not to let Toronto tie them in the standings. Now they have to play right away in Carolina, where they start the first of a home-and-home game with the Hurricanes.

Sabres Talk

Warrener, who scored the game winner in the first period, was impressed with the Sabres effort.

"It's a confidence thing for us," said Warrener. "I would say it ranks right up there. I don't know that there's many better games that we've skated. We've played well since the trade deadline and we've only got so many games left. This is the time you want to be going hot, and we're starting to get on a roll."

Meanwhile, Leafs coach Pat Quinn was very disappointed in his team's effort in a crucial game.

"It wasn't very nice to watch," conceded Quinn. "I don't have an explanation."

"It could've been absolutely worse," Quinn continued, crediting Joseph for keeping the Leafs in the game. "That's about as bad as I've seen this hockey team in the three years I've been here."

Ruff was equally impressed with Joseph.

"Joseph played a heck of a game," praised Sabres coach Lindy Ruff. "With all the chances we threw at him in the first two periods, we could have had the game in hand a lot sooner than we did."

"It's as well as we've skated and put together a consistent offensive attack," Ruff continued. "I think we had over 20 chances in the first two periods."

"We talked about getting off to a real good start, coming out and throwing everything at them."

Heinze, who continued his torrid pace is fitting in real well.

"The guys work so darn hard," said Heinze. "The guys in this locker room have enough talent and are great players in this league, and they also wear a blue collar."


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