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Sabres Central

Rangers seeing red after losing to Sabres
By Rick Anderson
November 25, 2000

The third jersey jinx is over and the Rangers are seeing red because of it. After numerous requests by fans and media alike to abandon the red third jersey, the Buffalo Sabres put that jinx theory to rest Friday night. The Sabres played two solid periods and beat the New York Rangers 3-2 before a sellout crowd of 18,690 in HSBC Arena.
Dominik Hasek makes a sprawling save on his back as he stops Rangers left winger Jan Hlavac (27) from scoring.
[AP Photo/Don Heupel]

The Sabres took a commanding 2-0 lead in the first period with goals by Chris Gratton and Stu Barnes, and then rested on their laurels in the second period which allowed the Rangers to come back to tie the game. Jason Woolley, who had earlier injured his groin, came back and scored the winner in the third period.

Dominik Hasek played a stellar game and didn't make one bad clearing pass as he made 24 saves. In the game on Wednesday against the Flyers, Hasek made three bad clearing passes which directly resulted in goals. After that game, Sabres coach Lindy Ruff made no attempt to hide his anger over his goalie's miscues. Against the Rangers, the Dominator made it a point to not get too sloppy with his clearing attempts.

"I tried to leave the puck more for my defense," said Hasek. "I still played the puck. I was many times behind the net, but I was more patient. I gave it more to my defense and they decided what to do."

Fire and Ice

The Sabres came out smoking in the first period. Chris Gratton took a slap shot from the left point and it hit a Rangers defenseman and went past Rangers' goalie Mike Richter at the 8:26 mark. Later in the period, Miroslav Satan and Stu Barnes went in on a 2-on-1 break. Satan flew in on the right side and made a splendid pass over to Stu Barnes, who was all alone on the left side. Barnes one-timed his shot past Richter making it 2-0 Sabres.

While the first period was the fire, the second was definitely ice for the Sabres. Buffalo could have blown New York away if they had capitalized on several splendid chances, but Richter turned them all away.

The Rangers were finally able to beat Hasek when they used a clever three-way passing play to draw within one goal. Petr Nedved passed over to Theoren Fleury who immediately flung it to Radek Dvorak. Dvorak's shot got by Hasek from in close as the Dominator had no chance on that one.

Fleury set up the second Ranger goal as he fed Brad Brown in close and Brown tucked it under Hasek. It was Brown's first goal in almost two years.

"I was happy for him," said Fleury about Brown. "Those guys don't get opportunities like that very often. When guys like that score, it makes a big difference for the team."

"It was a good feeling to tie the game," replied Brown. "But I couldn't care less if I score a goal. It's not my job. I don't care if I score another goal in the National Hockey League. I wanted to win."

Jason returns

Woolley has not had the kind of season he would like. He's been injured and hadn't scored a goal up until Friday night. He almost didn't even get that. While going down to block a Michael York pass, 225-pound Sandy McCarthy fell on Woolley, stretching his groin. The Sabres defenseman had to leave the game for awhile, but he came back and the Sabres were glad he did.
Erik Boulton wraps his stick around Rangers defenseman Kim Johnsson (3) in first period action where the Sabres beat the Rangers 3-2.
[AP Photo/Don Heupel]

"I tried to go down to block the path to McCarthy," described Woolley. "All of his weight went on my back and my groin kind of went one way and I went the other. It's a little tender right now. I hope it's OK tomorrow night (when the Sabres play the Canadiens)."

While the Sabres were on a power play, Alexei Zhitnik's shot bounced off the back boards and right onto Woolley's stick. Woolly put his shot right on Richter's back side and it caromed into the net for his first goal of the season.

"Z got the shot through. It was a nice shot," Woolley described Zhitnik's shot off the boards. "Actually it was a perfect bank right to me. I'm just glad it worked out.

"The puck came right to me, I had a choice to either tuck it around or throw it off the goalie. I've seen that shot done by a lot of good players. I did it in street hockey a few times and it worked really well. It was something I wanted to try, and it worked out."

The Rangers thought the goal should not have counted. About the same time the puck went off Richter's back, the net was knocked off its moorings by the goalie. The video review of the goal showed that the puck went in before the net was jarred loose and the goal stood.

"I was just looking at it (the replay) and you can't tell from the overhead because of the angle from behind the net," said Rangers coach Ron Lowe. "It looks real close to me but they said it wasn't, so we have no recourse."

Dominik's Zone

Hasek has heard Sabres coach Lindy Ruff tear into other teammates after a poor effort, but he was not expecting that kind of tongue-lashing to be directed at him. He must have been a little more than shocked when Ruff went on a tirade behind closed doors before coming out to do in post game press conference after Wednesday's loss to the Flyers. Hasek's mishandling of the puck resulted in all three Flyers goals.

"They got were three turnovers that led to three goals that we served up on a platter for them," Ruff said on Wednesday. "I've talked to Dom about it. Geez, we want our defense playing that puck. I mean, the defense can shoot it around the boards twice as hard as Dom can. So if we are going to do that, then let the defense rip it around the wall."

"Every team watches tapes, they know that Dom is going to throw it around the wall and they take the wall away," Ruff continued his heated remarks about Hasek after the Flyers loss. "Our defense doesn't work to get back, and if there's a turnover, all of the sudden we're out of position. We've talked about communication, we've talked about the D' yelling Dom off."

Apparently the message finally got through to Hasek. While he did play the puck behind the net at times, he obviously wasn't as gun-ho to send it blindly around the boards. Hasek was clearly a big factor in the win over the Rangers.

"Let's be honest, Dominik probably makes the difference, a huge difference with winning and losing for their team in half those games, if not more," commented Rangers center Petr Nedved.

Hasek stopped Nedved on a breakaway two minutes into the third period and made a huge glove save on a wicked shot by Sylvan Lefebvre a few minutes later. After Woolley's goal, the Sabres all-star goalie made several other outstanding saves to preserve the win.

"He usually makes those saves," said Nedved about being stopped on the breakaway. "Against Hasek, you try to pick the corners. You don't go for the average shot because it is not very often that he lets in a bad goal. But I didn't get it all the way up. I have to make a better play than that."

"When you go against Hasek, you don't just shoot the puck, you try to pick a spot because you know he's not going to give up a bad goal. That definitely makes it harder."

"When we got the opportunities, he shut the door," Nedved continued. "Don't get me wrong, he's not the only guy that beat us."

Hasek was happy with the win and to be out of Ruff's doghouse.

"Of course, it was nice to win a game," said Hasek. "It was an important game. The New York Rangers are a confident team and we needed it after a little slump. We needed a win."

Satanic Hell on Ice

What the Hades is wrong with Miro Satan these days? The Sabres scoring ace from the past two years is more than just snake-bit. He just has 4 goals in 20 games and even changed his number from 18 back to 81 for Wednesday's game against the Flyers. That didn't help.
Erik Rasmussen goes after the puck after Michael York tries to poke the puck away from Rasmussen.
[AP Photo/Don Heupel]

"It seemed like nobody liked 18," said Satan. "So I switched it back to 81.Nobody liked it (#18). Everybody made me feel bad about it. So I had to switch back to 81."

Danny Gare, who now works for Empire Sports during Sabres broadcasts, was the last one to have success wearing that number. Gare scored 50 goals in the 1975-76 season and was one of the Sabres top scorers during that era. Ever since he was traded to Detroit, no one has been able to do anything wearing that number. Such players as Paul Cyr, Bob Halkidis, Gilles Hamel (yes the Sabres have been blessed with Hamels), Wayne Presley, Dave Snuggerud and lastly Mical Grosek. Grosek made his first return to Buffalo since being traded last spring for Doug Gilmour and J.P. Dumont. BTW- Grosek was wearing #8 against the Rangers.

"It's a good thing some other guys are scoring," said Satan. "I can't put the puck in the net. I've had so many chances, but I haven't hit the net."

"Satan had two or three (scoring opportunities) that normally that you could chalk up," said Ruff.

The Sabres Devilman had at least 6 great chances to net his 5th goal against the Rangers, but Richter stood his ground and denied him. Satan knows that if he's not scoring, he'll have to do other things to contribute to the club. One of his biggest contributions to the cause was a perfect pass to Barnes for the second goal of the night.

"I didn't know what I was going to do," admitted Satan. "When I saw there was a big gap between the defenseman and Stu, I hit him for a one-timer and he made a great shot."

Satan, who scored 40 goals in 98-99 and 33 last year, is now on a pace to net just 16 goals this season if he doesn't find the notch soon.

Miro did something else that drew the notice of not only the fans and the Rangers, but the referees. Rich Pilon got away with a big elbow to Satan's head and Miro came right back and delivered a blow to Piron which sent him to the ice. Piron got up and was ready to tangle with the usually unaggressive Sabres forward. Satan was just as determined to vent his frustrations on Piron's face. The officials quickly get between the two players and sent Satan off for two minutes.

It is just a hunch here that Satan may have found a new way to get his game off the ice surface - aggressive play. Expect to see more heavy forechecking from the 6-1, 192 pound left winger and maybe even a couple of fights.

"There was a lot to like about Miro's game," lauded Ruff. "Even the penalty he took, that's the type of penalty where he said that he's not going to take and guff from anybody. It should have been and interference call on them or an elbowing call. He came back and to give it to one of the tougher guys in the league, he gave it right back to him. You don't mind killing those (penalties) off."

Sabres Talk

Woolley took a page out of Brian Leetch's book and it paid big dividends. While Woolley was benched by Ruff early in November, he had a chance to reexamine his game. He caught a game in which Leetch scored twice against the Edmonton Oilers and decided right then and there that he could do the same. Friday night, Woolley had a chance to upstage the player he admires so much.

"As far as motivation, sure I'm sitting on the bench watching him," said Woolley about Leetch. "It kind of gets you going a little bit. He makes a lot of plays when everyone's watching the puck. I can do that. I'm confident I can or I wouldn't be down there."

The Rangers were not overly concerned about losing to the Sabres.

"Obviously, Rome was not built in a day," said Fleury. "The more games we play, the more we are starting to play the same consistent game each and every night. "We played hard tonight, considering this is our sixth game in however many days it is. We've flown across the country once. They got a lucky bounce. That's gonna happen sometimes in a hockey game. You cannot fault the team."

Rangers coach Ron Low thought the Sabres got the better breaks in the game.

"We did not have a great first period, we had a great second and the third was a see-saw period," Low said. "They happened to get something off the back boards on the power play and our power play did not get much done tonight."

Chris Gratton, who scored his 6th of the season in the first period, played much better than he did against the Flyers when he was benched for a good portion of the game.

"It was fast-paced, hard-hitting and both teams competed really hard tonight," Gratton said. "Those are fun games to play in and fun games to watch. It was a hard battle from start to finish."

"I thought tonight we got off to a lot better start," said Ruff during his post game conference. "It was a hard-fought game even the first period. We buried a couple of our breaks and we got them down. That was probably the difference."

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