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Sabres Central

Sabres curtail third period meltdown, slay Panthers
By Rick Anderson
November 13, 2001

Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo stops a Stu Barnes shot while Marcus Nilson awaits the rebound in the first period.
[AP Photo/Alan Diaz]

All signs pointed to yet another third period collapse by the Buffalo Sabres. They had done it at least 4 other times this season and after blowing a 3-1 lead, the momentum was suddenly with the Florida Panthers. In came Curtis Brown to the rescue, scoring the winning goal when it appeared as if the game were going into overtime. J.P. Dumont scored a hat trick as the Sabres came back with late-game fireworks to beat the Panthers 5-3.

The Sabres used to have a lock on games when they led after two periods. Not any more. This season, for some unknown reason, no Sabres' lead is safe anymore.

When the Sabres cruised to a 3-1 lead in the second period, they seemed to be missing that killer instinct. If they had gotten that fourth goal, they would have completely killed any comeback thoughts that the Panthers may have had. While the Sabres outshot Florida 12-4 in the first period, they continued their onslaught by outshooting them 11-6 in the second stanza. However, they just couldn't put them away.

Panthers bite first

It didn't take long for the Panthers to draw first blood. Just 41 seconds into the contest, the Panthers got one past Marty Biron as Pavel Bure drew everyone away from Florida defenseman Bret Hedican pinching in, and he got a pass from Bure that freed him on Biron. He faked Biron out of his skates and backhanded it past the Sabres goalie.

Peter Worrell gets checked by Sabres rookie Roy Fitzpatrick during the second stanza in a Sabres 5-3 victory over Florida.
[AP Photo/Alan Diaz]

Peter Worrell tripped up Sabres defenseman James Patrick at the 1:48 mark and the Sabres tied it up just 38 seconds later when Alexei Zhitnik blasted a shot on net that Dumont deflected past goalie Roberto Luongo.

Dumont got his second of the night a little over 13 minutes later when he tapped in the rebound after Stu Barnes made the initial shot on Luongo.

The Sabres, who had been horrible on the powerplay, finally got their act together, connecting on both chances they had in the opening period. After going only 1-for-15 in their last three games, Miroslav Satan netted the Sabres second PP goal when he used Dumont as a screen, took Zhitnik's pass and fired his shot on the far side of the net. It was Satan's 8th goal of the season.

With the Sabres going into the second period leading 3-1, it was the perfect time to put the Panthers out of their misery. Instead, Buffalo skated around in a defensive shell, hoping to keep the Panthers at bay with a defensive effort. With a player like Bure on their roster, you just don't do that, as they are able to strike at any time.

Going into the final period with the same 3-1 lead, the Panthers gained confidence and took the game to the Sabres.

Richard Smehlik weak pass out of the Sabres zone was intercepted by Viktor Kozlov and he forced Biron to make a good stop. But the rebound went out to rookie phenom Kristian Huselius, who hammered the rebound past Biron for his 10th of the season near the nine minute mark. Two minutes later, the Russian Rocket, Bure, had the game all tied up when he rifled a 20-foot slap shot past the befuddled Biron.

Brown's shot downs Panthers

The game had all the appearances of an overtime contest when Brown scored the winner at 18:43. A callup from Rochester, Ales Kotalik, got control of the puck and passed it from behind the net to Brown, who was all alone in front of Luongo and he beat him with a wrist shot for his 4th of the season.

"We put the puck in, kept it simple, and Al (Kotalik) raced in there and made a great check," explained Brown. "When you do that long enough (we were trying to do that all night) sooner or later you're going to get a bounce."

Dumont notched his hat trick when his long shot made it into the empty net with 16 ticks left on the clock for his 7th of the season.

Tuesday night, the Sabres play their second of two straight road games as they travel to Nashville.

Sabres Talk

The Satan-Barnes-Dumont line got 4 goals and 6 points. It appears as if that could be the Igniter Line as it could spark the Sabres much criticized offense for the rest of the season.

"They had plenty of chances and made some nice plays," said Sabres coach Lindy Ruff. "Miro was getting it to the net on one of J.P.'s goals."

Dumont seems to be getting back to the form he displayed in the first half of last season when he emerged from nowhere to be a gunner the Sabres could depend on. In the second half, Dumont disappeared. The Sabres hope he keeps this pace up for the entire season this time.

"I've felt really good lately, and I had a few chances," Dumont said. "Our line was doing pretty good."

"Every goal scorer has to be a little lucky. My role here is to be around the net and around the puck. It really comes down to being in the right place at the right time."

Florida coach Duane Sutter was appalled by his team's effort.

"Other than five minutes (during the final period), it was our worst effort of the year," Sutter said.

Other Panthers concurred with their coach.

"The first period was the worst we played, by far," bemoaned Panther defenseman Paul Laus.

"We didn't play well, pure and simple," added Worrell. "No excuse for that at home."

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