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Sabres Central

Sabres shoot blanks against Sens
By Rick Anderson
November 4, 2001

Sabres goalie Martin Biron stops the Senators Mike Fisher during the second stanza as Sabres defenseman Jay Mckee attempts to ride Fisher off the puck.
[AP Photo/Tom Hanson]

It's time to get off this ride.

The Buffalo Sabres have had a roller coaster season so far. Recently, however, they have been on the downhill swing. Saturday night in Ottawa, the Sabres played a very sloppy game and it cost them a crucial two points as the Senators beat them 3-0.

The Sabres played as if they left their desire to win back in Buffalo. There haven't been as many errant passes the whole season as the Sabres had against the Sens. Not only was the passing horrendous, but the defense often made terrible mistakes, leaving Buffalo goalie Martin Biron alone to fend himself against the wolves. The Sabres young goalie did his best and made several outstanding saves, but with little help from his blueliners he had his work cut out for him. Biron made 22 saves, but three pucks got past him and that was all she wrote.

Sabres Implosion

Are the Sabres in trouble of imploding so early in the season? That is the question that a lot of Sabres fans must be asking themselves right about now. The Sabres have now lost 4 out of their last five games and things don't seem to be getting any better in Sabreland. The offensive juggernaut the Sabres have been attempting to become this year is far from ever happening. In fact, the Sabres haven't had any offensive muscle since the days of Pat LaFontaine and Alexander Mogilny. They have never been known for putting numbers on the board. Saturday night in Ottawa is a perfect example of a team in dire need of a gunner to finish off plays.

The Sabres make the average run-of-the-mill goalie look like the second coming of Terry Sawchuk. When they come up against an above average goalie like Patrick Lalime, then the Sabres have an almost impossible task in front of them. Lalime, who dominated the Sabres in the two preseason games he played against them late this summer, showcased his skills Saturday night. He made 28 saves and stopped Miroslav Satan on a penalty shot.

"I thought it was one of the better games we played in this building, and Lalime stole the show," said Sabres coach Lindy Ruff.

Shooting goose eggs

As has been the case for most of this season and the past three seasons, the Sabres depended on their goalie to keep the score down below 2. That is the big number for the Sabres. If the opposition scores any more than 1 or 2 goals, they are in deep trouble. Saturday, the Sabres were shooting blanks and the only hope they had is if Biron were able to blank the Sens attack.

In years past, it was Dominik Hasek who used to bail the Sabres out time and again. This season, Biron takes over the reigns at goal and has done an adequate job. The Dominator he is not, but against the Sens, he did make several Dominator-type saves. Even so, it was not enough. The season series between these two teams usually produces extremely low-scoring games. Games that end 0-0 or 1-0 are frequent when the Sabres and Senators lock horns. The game in the Corel Centre was a blowout compared to those.

Sabres' Alexei Zhitnik takes out Ottawa's Todd White with a ferocious check in the second period. The Sabres were blanked by Ottawa, 3-0.
[AP Photo/Tom Hanson]

While the Sabres could not get one past Lalime, the Sens seemed to have no problems finding the back of the net. Ottawa got the winning goal early in the game. With just a little over 6 minutes gone in the first period, the Sabres had trouble getting the puck out of their own zone. With Richard Smehlik fighting for the puck with Andre Roy behind the net. Roy was able to send it out in front to Martin Havlat, who was left unguarded in front of Biron. Havlat had no problems handcuffing Biron and the giving the Sens a 1-0 lead. They would never look back.

"It was a great start to the game," elated Havlat. "We killed the two penalties and that helped us mentally."

In the second period, the Sabres got their best chance to get back into the game. Satan broke in alone on Lalime, but was hauled down by Chris Phillips. The referee, McGeough, awarded Satan a penalty shot. Satan, who had scored two goals the night before against Tampa Bay, came in on Lalime on his penalty shot and instead of doing his usual deke, took a rather weak shot that just glanced off Lalime's pad and that was it for the Sabres. Satan's shot was exemplified the Sabres effort in this game, anemic.

"Obviously I didn't feel very good after that," revealed Satan. "I wanted to shoot low and he made a difficult save."

Lalime got advice from one of his teammates before facing Satan one-on-one.

"I got some advice from Marian Hossa before (Satan's foiled chance)," said Lalime. "Hossa told me that Satan likes to shoot rather than deke, so I decided to challenge him. As soon as he came down, I tried to charge him as much as I could to make him deke. I don't know if he changed his mind, but he let it go and I got a piece of it."

After Satan was stymied, the Sabres offense headed south.

Senators cast their votes

After Lalime's save on Satan, it seemed to pick up the rest of the team. They gave Lalime their vote of confidence and took it to the Sabres. With a minute and a half remaining in the second stanza, the Sens doubled their lead when Bill Muckalt took a shot on goal and it ricocheted off Roy's skate. The refs went upstairs to determine if the goal was legit or not. The review proved that the puck was not kicked in and the Sens had widened the gap.

"Billy shot it in the air and I kind of put my leg out," explained Roy. "I'll take it."

The Senators finished off the Sabres when Todd White got a one-timer after being set up by Sami Salo.

The Sabres played one of their most uncoordinated games of the year. Their passes were off, they kept on coughing up the puck and the drive towards the net leaved a lot to be desired.

With a record of 6-7-1-1, the Sabres are sinking fast from the rest of the pack in the Northeastern Division. They get 4 days to heal their physical and mental bruises as their next game is Thursday at home against Atlanta.

Sabres Talk

Ruff is scratching his head these days in an attempt to light a fire under his team.

"Hamel hit the post, Campbell missed an empty net, it could have gotten us going the right way," Ruff described. "Then you look at penalty shots, you look at Varada in alone, Afinogenov in alone, Hamel in the third again."

Talking about the shot that glanced off Roy, Ruff said, "That was the killer for us. We get the penalty shot to get back in the game, the breakaway first and then the penalty shot. He makes a great save on that, then they fire one at the front of the net, and from what it just his knee and went into the net."

Lalime got his first start since October 23, as Jani Hurme has been sensational in the nets for the Sens. Hurme, who has a 4-2 record to go along with his 1.88 GAA, was presented with the Molson Cup for being the Senators' top player in October. Lalime was just happy to get the nod to start in goal.

"I was looking forward to the game," Lalime revealed. "It felt good to be back in. I just wanted to go out there and play well but the guys played well in front of me."

"I just wanted to keep our streak going (the Sens have now won 4 straight). The guys are playing really well and I'm happy with the result, that's for sure. .We're doing the little things that led us to win before. Hard work, second effort and backchecking, every little thing. We want to win, and it shows on the ice."

Satan gave Lalime his kudos.

"Lalime had a very good game and they had a great defensive effort," Satan said. "We had some chances but their goalie was pretty strong tonight and I think he won the game for them."

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