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Sabres Central

Battered Barnes comes through to beat Habs
By Rick Anderson
November 26, 2000

When the Buffalo Sabres and Montreal Canadiens get together, you can always expect excitement. Saturday night, when the two faced off against each other, the two teams generated a lot of excitement along with scrappy play as the Sabres edged the Habs 5-3.

Stu Barnes scored the winning goal only 3 minutes into the third period and Martin Biron held the Habs at bay the rest of the way. Biron stopped 29 shots to record his first victory of the season.


Stu Barnes celebrates after scoring winning goal.
[AP PHOTO/Andre Forget]

Talk about scrappy play and the first player to come to mind for the Sabres is Stu Barnes. Barnes has been the most consistent player on the team so far this season. Friday night he suffered a broken nose that required double-digit stitches. When asked after Friday's game if he thought Barnes would play against the Habs, Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said "who knows."

The person who did know was Barnes. A mere broken nose with enough bruises under eyes along with his stitches to make him look like a little Munster was not going to keep Barnes out of the game Saturday.

"There's no way I would have missed this game," the gnarled Barnes retorted.

Against the Rangers, Miroslav Satan fed Barnes a perfect pass to set up a one-timer goal. Satan and Barnes had gone down on a 2-on-1 with Barnes on the left side. Saturday night in Montreal, Barnes did almost the exact same thing to set up J.P. Dumont's goal. This time it was Barnes heading down right wing with Dumont on the left side on a 2-on-1, with Barnes faking a shot to force Canadien's goalie Mathieu Garon to cover Barnes. This left Dumont alone on the left side and when he got Barnes laser pass, he shot it up top for his 7th goal of the year.

With the score tied at 3 early in the third, the scrappy Barnes came through with the Sabres needed him the most. Alexei Zhitnik took a shot on goal and Barnes scooped up the rebound and slam it home.

"Garon made a good pad save and it just took a lucky bounce," described Barnes. "I told myself there was no way I would miss a chance like that. I was just standing in the right place. I was lucky enough to have some net to shoot at."

The 5'-11" 180 pound Barnes was selected by the Winnipeg Jets in the first round during the 1989 NHL Entry Draft. In fact, he was top pick in the entire draft that year. He was traded to the Florida Panthers in 1993 and played under Ruff (who was an assistant) while in Miami.

Barnes, who came to Buffalo via a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins for bad boy Matthew Barnaby in 1998-99, has been a valuable player for Ruff since then. He has scored 20 goals the past two seasons with the Sabres and his gritty play is what Ruff would like the rest of his players to emulate.

"To play the game he played tonight, I don't think you can say enough about him," Ruff said.

Early Fireworks

Like they did the night before against the Rangers, the Sabres came out of the gates blazing. It took the Sabres only 10 seconds to get on the scoreboard as Curtis Brown centered a pass to Vladimir Tsyplakov, who ripped it past Garon.

Just two minutes later, the Sabres had a 2-0 lead when Dumont converted Barnes perfect pass.

Pesky Habs

Just like the night before when the Sabres went up 2-0 on the Rangers, the Sabres fell into a shell and allowed their opponent to come back. Suddenly the Habs looked like the second coming of the Red Army hockey team of the 70s. They were all over the Sabres and Biron had to be sharp to prevent an onslaught of goals. He made 12 saves in the first period and faced 20 shots the rest of the way.

The Habs were finally able to penetrate Biron's shield as Eric Landry stormed down the left side and his shot from around the left faceoff circle got past Biron to pull the Canadiens within 1.

Then Eric Boulton got his first of the year when he too got a shot off from the left faceoff circle in the Habs zone that Garon couldn't stop. The Sabres 3-1 lead lasted 10 minutes. Then 16 minutes into the period, Patrick Poulin found Sergei Zholtok all alone in the slot. Zholtok's wrist shot beat Biron inside the left post. It was the first goal of the year for Zholtok, who scored 26 goals with the Habs last season.

"Getting one goal is no big deal," Zholtok said. "I have to keep working because coach is expecting more production from . You get in a slump like this, and it makes you a better person. It gives you a good perspective on life." Zholtok had a big hand in the Habs next goal in the third period. His cantering pass to Juha Lind was deflected by Satan in the slot area. Lind found the puck and unleashed a wicked shot that got by Biron on his stick side to tie it up at 3.

After the score was tied at around the 2 minute mark of the final stanza, Biron was able to withstand the barrage of rubber the Habs sent his way.

Zebras rule

One thing that the Canadiens had going for them was the officiating. Buffalo was called for 9 penalties, compared to only 1 for Montreal. The rough-and-tumble play was not as one-sided as this figure would indicate. Referees Blaine Angus and Steve Walkom were determined to give the Montreal patrons their money's worth by awarding the Habs many opportunities to get back into the game and win it.
The Flying Zubrus! Dainius Zubrus takes to the air to avoid a collision with the Sabres jay McKee during first period play. McKee would not be so lucky later in the period as he got slammed to the boards and suffered a concussion.
[AP PHOTO/Andre Forget]

After the Sabres looked like they were going to blow the Habs out of their own building, the refs stepped in and decided enough was enough. Tsyplakov, Jason Woolley and Vaclav Varada were sent to the box for 3 consecutive penalties. Meanwhile, the Habs were literally getting away with murder.

By allowing the Canadiens to get away with blatant infractions, some in which actually caused injury to a couple Sabres, the officials were losing control of the game. That resulted in the Sabres having to take matters into their own hands to avenge for the Habs dirty work. By doing so, Buffalo was penalized even more.

With Rhett Warrener out because of a concussion he was suffering from, the Sabres were already short a defenseman. When Patrick Poulin left his skates and pounded Jay McKee's head into the glass during the first period giving him a concussion, the game started looking more like Roller Ball than hockey. McKee's head swelled up from the blow and his status right now is not known.

"Poulin drove him into he boards on purpose," fumed Ruff. "I'm definitely sending this tape to the NHL."

With the Habs allowed to do all sorts of physical damage to his players, Ruff decided to live up to his name. He sent out Eric Boulton to get some retribution in the second period. Boulton did battle with defenseman Craig Rivet and Boulton clearly won that bout.

At around the 14 minute mark of the second period, Woolley and Dainius Zubrus started going at it. Zubrus knocked Jason to the ice with a one-timer and Chris Gratton came to Woolley's defense. Before Gratton could pay retribution to Zubrus, Jason Ward picked him off. That was a huge mistake. Ward became Gratton's human punching bag as he hammered away at Ward's face unmercifully. Finally, Gratton knocked Ward to the ice and the refs pulled the two combatants away. For some ungodly reason, Gratton was given an extra two minutes for instigating. Ward stepped into Gratton, not the other way around. Anyway, the Sabres had yet another penalty to kill.

Summing it up

After Barnes goal, the Sabres settled down and had to only kill one penalty (Barnes for hooking) as the refs put the whistle away for the period. Miro Satan finally netted one, an empty-netter with 50 seconds left on the clock and Garon pulled for the extra attacker. It was only Satan's 5th goal of the year.

With the loss, the Canadiens have now lost seven straight at home, which ties a franchise record set in 1939-40. The Canadiens now are the proud owners of a 6-15-2-0 record.

With the addition of McKee to the injury list, the Sabres had to rely more on rookie defenseman Dmitri Kalinin. Kalinin has been more than a fill in this year. In fact, his play has been so exceptional for a rookie that his name is starting to get mentioned for NHL Rookie of the Year. Ruff is not hesitant to put Kalinin out on the ice late in the game when the score is close.

The Sabres also called up Brian Campbell from Rochester to help the depleted defensive corps.

The injury to Warrener is worrisome to Ruff. He was slammed into the boards (much like McKee was in Montreal) on November 17 in a game against the Minnesota Wild. He still had headaches and was placed on injured reserve.

"He's still having headaches," Ruff said. "From the day he's free of those it's going to be at least a week, so he's a long ways away. Obviously it's a lot longer than I first thought it would be. It hasn't cleared up. We don't know when it's going to clear up. So we're very concerned at this point."

Now with McKee also suffering a similar concussion, Ruff may have to call up another defenseman from the Amerks.

Doug Gilmour is scheduled to have a bone scan on Monday the check out the inflammation in the pelvic area he has been suffering from. Ruff is not sure how long Gilmour will be sidelined.

The Sabres have two days off before getting back into action in Ottawa on Tuesday.

Sabres Talk

Stu Barnes was happy with his winning goal.

"We won a big one last night and tonight, obviously being up like we were, if we had lost it would have been a heartbreaker," elated Barnes. "But the guys battled down the stretch and it was great to come out on top."

Barnes talked about the puck hitting him between the eyes against the Rangers.

"It didn't really hit me that hard," Barnes said. "I lost the faceoff and it went back and somebody was reaching for it and I was reaching for it at the same time and it just flipped up and hit me in the nose. It's no big deal. It's not broken or anything, just a cut and a little swelling."
To help set the tone in the first period, Vladimir Tsyplakov not only scored the first goal ten seconds into the game, but later he sends Stephane Robidas back to the Canadien bench where he belongs..
[AP PHOTO/Andre Forget]

The Canadiens new coach, Michel Therrien, was unhappy with the effort. He replaced Alain Vigneault, who was fired on Monday along with GM Rejean Houle. His record with the Habs is now 1-2.

"We played well for 55 minutes,"said Therrien. "I'm disappointed about the first five minutes. I was disappointed with the way we came out. We were tense. We've got to be sure that the next game we're ready at the start."

"We slept for the first five minutes, but the guys kept working and didn't quit until the very end," continued Therrien. "As long as we learn from this, learn to play from the opening buzzer."

"We really put ourselves in trouble with those early goals, but we played pretty well after that," said the Habs rookie goaltender Garon. "We played really well offensively. Our play defensively was not very strong. We gave them a lot of scoring chances. Almost every shot they took was a scoring chance."

Martin Biron finally got a chance to play in Montreal before friends and family. He got injured early in the game when a shot hit him in the side.

"I dropped to my feet and I didn't see it (the shot)," said Biron. "I ended up just trying to float around and swim around my crease. A guy got a shot off from the point where I just laid down waiting for it, I had my glove up in the air to catch it. It caught me right in the ribs on the side. I lost my wind a little bit. It wasn't as bad as it looked. It was really hot in the building and I was trying to get my wind as quick as I can, but that actually put me in the game more."


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