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Sabres Central

Senators shutdown Sabres
By Rick Anderson
November 29, 2000

The Buffalo Sabres just couldn't get the puck past Patrick Lalime all night. He stood on his head when he had to, especially in the second period, as the Ottawa Senators beat the Sabres 3-1. In the second period, the Sabres put the most pressure on Lalime with 14 shots on goal and couldn't get one past him.

Dominik Hasek raises his arms to the Hockey Gods in anger after Alexei Yashin slid the puck underneath the Sabres goalie for the winning goal in the second period.
[AP Photo/Jonathan Hayward]

The Sabres would have taken over first place overall in the Eastern Conference if they had won. As it is, they are now third behind the Sens and the Maple Leafs.

Remember Alexei Yashin? He's the superstar that sat out all last season in a contract dispute and a judge ruled that he had to play this season in Ottawa whether he wanted to or not. Yashin reported and has been playing, but not up to the standards that Senators fans were used to before last season's boycott. Yashin started to connect last Saturday when he scored his first goal in ten games as Ottawa beat the Leafs. Tuesday, Yashin continued to contribute as he scored the game winner with just 16 seconds remaining in the second period.

Holy Rebound!

Dominik Hasek has been giving up huge rebounds as of late and he's paying dearly for that. With the second period winding down, Shawn McEachern took a long shot from the point that Hasek blocked. However, the rebound went right to Yashin. Hasek tried to do his snowangle bit, but Yashin slid it under the Sabres goalie to give the Sens their first lead of the game.

Giving up a big rebound also was the reason for the Senators first goal of the game around 9 minutes into the game.. Daniel Alfredsson put two straight shots on Hasek and he couldn't control the puck which went to McEachern who scored from the slot .

"There were a few rebounds tonight and we took advantage of them," said McEachern.

Hasek did make 27 saves in this tight-checking contest and many were superlative. His counterpart Lalime was just as good if not better at the other end of the ice. He made two huge stops midway through the second period when he deprived Miroslav Satan on a backhander and then shutdown Vaclav Varada when he had a glorious opportunity a little while later. Lalime's biggest save came in the third when Eric Rasmussen broke past Jamie Rivers to get in alone on the Ottawa goalie. Once again Lalime came up big on Rasmussen's backhander.

Offensive drought

This game played out like many Sabres-Senators games in the past, with the forwards being held in gridlock and the score held down to a couple. Sabres coach Lindy Ruff has got to light a fire under his forwards to light the scoreboard more. One goal per game is not going to win many games, even with Hasek in goal.

The only goal of the night came when Chris Gratton was attempting to make a pass from behind Lalime and his pass deflected off the goalie's stick in into the net. That seemed like the only way the Sabres were going to beat him - with a fluke goal.

"I surprised myself," Lalime bantered about the goal that went off his stick. "I wasn't fast enough to stop myself."

Lalime shutdown the Sabres the rest of the way and as a result, the Senators are now riding high on top of the Eastern Conference.

"Every time you play a team in your division, it's a four-point game, and you don't want to lose those," Lalime commented. "The standings are so tight now that every game is big. It's nice to come out on top."

"Games within our conference, especially against Toronto and Buffalo, are so important," said McEachern, who got his second goal of the night into an empty net near the end of the game. "At the end of the season, these games are huge. You just don't realize it until the end of the season, but you really have to win them all year long."

UnPecable

The last two games the Sabres lost, against Ottawa and Philadelphia, are game where they could have used their captain in a big way. Michael Peca made a name for himself by shutting down Yashin and the entire Flyers machine. The Flyers dominated Buffalo for the second time when they beat the Sabres 3-1 last Wednesday. Yashin was the man who went pointless the last time the two teams met in the playoffs.

The contract negations between Peca and the Sabres management have stopped completely. Peca is asking for $3.5 million per season, while the Sabres offer is $1 million under that. Like all stalled negotiations, a compromise is somewhere in the middle. While both sides stick to their guns, the season is closing in on the halfway mark and the Sabres are losing his valuable services.

Sabres Talk

Chris Gratton, who now has two goals in two straight games, knows the importance of capitalizing on any scoring opportunity.

"Both goaltenders played well, we just couldn't bury our chances," said Gratton."He (Lalime) came up with some big saves at the right time. We had a lot of chances, working the puck down low, but they're a very good hockey team, and they work for a full 60 minutes."

"Every save is big," chipped in Lalime, who now has a 7-4-1 record with a 1.83 GAA. "When you look at the scoreboard at the end of the game, every save is a big shot. You've got to make those at the right time. We stayed in the game after that and everybody battled hard until the end."

Ottawa has now beaten their top two competitors (Buffalo and Toronto) in consecutive games. "I think it was a big night for the whole team," said McEachern. "I thought my line had some good chances, Alfie and Yash really worked hard tonight. We got some good rebound goals. We had guys going to the net, we were taking some shots and trying to make things happen out there."

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