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Sabres Central

Sharp Sabres sink Caps 5-2
By Rick Anderson
November 29, 2001

Sabres goalie Martin Biron protects the post as the Capitals' Jaromir Jagr tries to penetrate Sabres defenseman Jay McKee and Biron's protected zone.
[AP Photo/Susan Walsh]

Protecting a third period lead has been a difficult task for the Buffalo Sabres this season. Just the night before, they blew a two-goal lead against the New York Rangers in 20 minutes and 6 seconds. The Rangers tied it up with only 8 seconds left. The Sabres also threw a barrage of 49 shots at Ranger goalie Mike Richter, getting only 2 past him. Now they were facing Olaf Kolzig, who has shut them down numerous times during his career. The Sabres went against their norm Wednesday night in the nation's capital by scoring 4 times against their old-time tormentor and cruised to a 5-2 victory over the Washington Capitals.

The Sabres put only 26 shots on goal Wednesday and scored on 5 of them, quite a difference from the night before with Richter in the nets. With both teams having played the night before, the Sabres seemed to have the fresher legs as they continued the dominating play from the night before.

Another big start

The Sabres once again jumped quickly in front of their opponent, once again taking a 2-0 lead. Maxim Afinogenov went in on a breakaway when he was fed by Jason Woolley and Maxim's first shot was stopped by Kolzig. However, the puck bounced off the Caps goalie and right back to Afinogenov. Maxim whacked at it and it hit the upper portion of the back of the net and came straight out. The refs didn't see it go in and the play had to be stopped to go upstairs, where the video judge ruled it indeed was a goal.

With the Slava Kozlov debacle the game before, it was thought that the player the Sabres acquired from the Wings in exchange for Hasek would sit out this one also. Kozlov had issued a "play me or trade me" ultimatum, but was in the opening lineup against the Caps. One game out of the fire seemed to have motivated him as he showed what he can do on the ice by scoring his first goal in 17 games.

Tim Connolly fed a pass to Kozlov, who skated down the right boards and cut over into the crease in front of Kolzig. Kozlov made the Caps goalie commit himself and he was able to slide it into the far corner, making it 2-0.

The Caps came back in the second stanza , however when Andrei Nikolishin cleanly beat Chris Gratton on a faceoff and sent it back to Ken Klee, positioned at the point. Klee blasted it past Sabres goalie Martin Biron (it appeared to have deflected off Rhett Warrener) and it looked like a repeat of the night before when the Rangers were able to chip away at the Sabres lead and finally tie it.

Alexei Zhitnik was sent to the penalty box and it resulted in two goals. First, Peter Bondra sent a pass that Miroslav Satan picked cleanly off and he broke in alone on Kolzig, firing it 5-hole and the Sabres had their 2-goal lead back, if only briefly.

Bondra made up for his mistake just 49 seconds later as he one-timed a pass from Adam Oates and the Sabres headed into the dressing room fearing another third period meltdown.

Halfway through the final period, J.P. Dumont clanked a shot off the post and it went straight to Sabres defenseman Jay McKee, who blasted it past Kolzig, making it 4-2.

"I was real surprised when the puck came to me," admitted McKee. " I just tried to fire a low shot hoping for a rebound in front of the net, and it found its way through."

The score stayed the same until the last 2 minutes of the game when Washington coach Ron Wilson pulled Kolzig in favor of the extra attacker. Captain Stu Barnes got control of a loose puck at center ice and went in on a two-on-one with Vaclav Varada. With a defenseman playing goalie, Barnes hinted a pass to Varada but then fired it into the net to finish off the scoring.

Sabres Talk

Sabres coach Lindy Ruff was pleased with his team's second straight concentrated effort.

"We buried some of our chances," said Ruff. "Tuesday night, like I said, Richter was unbelievable."

"You look at their defense and they're missing some very good players," Ruff continued. "If you don't take advantage of that, you're kicking yourself."

Once again Biron had a splendid night stopping 30 of 32 shots.

"It seemed like they had the momentum very, very much after they scored that first goal," Biron admitted. "They killed a penalty and we didn't get much off of it, and then they went right back on the power play and we got a short-handed goal, which I think made the difference. The two points beat one point, that's for sure."

"If they're playing a little sluggish, you've got to try to put them down right away," Biron said. "We haven't been playing well on the road lately, so the first period tonight was a big, important key. Everybody talked about it… we needed that tempo."

Satan wanted to help the Sabres get going on the road.

"We did not have a good record on the road, and, obviously, if we want to be in the playoffs then we have to have a much better record than we have," said Satan.

The Sabres talked about the explosive Kozlov situation. Rob Ray and Stu Barnes had a good talking to Kozlov about team chemistry and wanted to know Kozlov's exact feelings.

"We addressed it," related Barnes. "After the (Rangers) game we talked to him. I think it's something that's been taken care of. We've talked about it, and it's something that's going to be within the room. I don't think Slava meant exactly what he said, so as far as everyone's concerned I think it's behind us."

"I said I'm not going to take this any more, if they decide to bench me," Kozlov said, trying his best to defuse the situation. "We've got to make a decision between me and Lindy or between me and Darcy Regier."

"I didn't say one team is better than another. I said I sat enough on the Detroit bench, so I'm not going to accept this anymore,"Kozlov continued. "Somebody tried to make a big deal. Trust me, it's not a big deal. It's just I'm just mad because I didn't dress last night, but I didn't mean anything about the team. I didn't mention anything. There are some good players here. It's a good team."

Ruff has his slant on the situation.

"When you're only getting one or two chances a game as a line, you can go a long time without scoring goals," Ruff said. "We went through every aspect of it - if you're not producing, you'd better be bringing something else. You'd better be fighting, you'd better be scrapping, you'd better be fighting for every inch. In Detroit he wasn't replaced by Fedorov or Shanahan. I don't know who they put in the lineup, but I'm sure they weren't sitting out one of those guys. I don't think a great player came in the lineup to take his spot. I think it's Gilchrist or Holmstrom - guys that bring intangibles sometimes."

Meanwhile, the Capitals are having problems getting rolling this season.

"We have to start winning and we're not," Ulf Dahlen said. "It's frustrating because we are working hard out there, but we need to find a way to win."


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