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Sabres Central

The ‘Sandman' puts Sabres to sleep
By Rick Anderson
October 20, 2001

What a fitting way for the Columbus Blue Jackets to win their first game. Former Sabre Geoff Sanderson scored the winning goal against his former teammates when he was fed a perfect pass from yet another ex-Sabre Jean Luc Grand-Pierre, who hit him charging in all alone in the Sabres zone. As he zeroed in on Sabres goalie Martin Biron, Sanderson had one thing on his mind, payback. That is exactly what he did when his shot somehow got through Biron's pads and made it to the back of the goal with 8:56 left in the game. The Blue Jackets added a late empty-net goal to seal a 3-1 victory over the Sabres.

Sabres winger J. P. Dumont sprawls for the puck in a wild scramble in front of Blue Jackets goalie Ron Tugnutt in the third period. Tugnutt made 29 saves and helped Columbus gain their first victory of the season.
[AP Photo/David Duprey]

"It's good any time you get a game-winner like that, especially when your team's a little bit down," said the likable Sanderson. "I'm not going to say it's not special to get it against your old team, but we're just happy we got that first win."

The Sabres are now 0-2 against former expansion teams Atlanta and Columbus. Last Wednesday, they struggled to tie the Nashville Predators, another newcomer on the NHL scene. Buffalo has always struggled against teams from the lower half of the league and this year they are taking up right where they left off.

"That was probably one of the better games we've played against one of those teams that we're supposed to beat," remarked Sabres coach Lindy Ruff trying to put any positive spin he could on the alarming trend. "I think these teams, if you don't go ahead early and if you don't take advantage of your chances, you're in for a tough night."

Another hot goalie

Once again the Sabres were able to make the opposing goalie look like the second coming of Bernie Parent. This time it was Ron Tugnutt, who made 29 saves and single-handedly kept the Sabres at bay. The Blue Jackets shutdown their opponents' powerplay for the fifth straight game. The Sabres once had a four minute powerplay when Kevin Dineen pushed the butt end of his stick right into Slava Kozlov's nose. Tugnutt was a rock in goal during that powerplay and for much of the game. The Sabres are going to send the league a tape of the incident, hoping to get a suspension for the flagrant action by Dineen.

In the second period, the Sabres outshot the Blue Jackets 14-3. It was Tugnutt's first game in a week as he had been nursing a strained neck.

"He played great in the second period particularly," lauded BJs coach Dave King. "We were tired and on our heels, and the Sabres really came after us, and Ron made several real big saves to keep us in the game."

Meanwhile, Biron made only 17 saves and may have misplayed both goals that he allowed. The Predators scored first when they went on a 2-on-1 as Grant Marshall and Serge Aubin stormed in on Biron with only Dmitri Kalinin to protect him. Kalinin decided to guard Marshall and the winger flipped the puck over to Aubin gliding in alone on Biron. Aubin buried it behind Biron and the Sabres were behind the 8-ball with just a little over 6 minutes left in the first stanza.

"I think that's a great play for a defenseman (Marshall)," complimented Biron. "I should have read it faster, that when brought it back to his forehand he had only one choice, and that was to go across to Aubin. Maybe I could have read that a little faster and gotten right on Aubin before he even got the puck."

Sabres finally net one

Maxim Afinogenov has all the tools to be a great one, except for one thing.... the ability to finish off a great rush. He has been compared to the great Gilbert Perreault with his ability to skate circles around players, but he just doesn't have the hands, the soft touch to score a ton of goals. When he does light the lamp, people stand up and take notice. That he did Friday night against the Blue Jackets as he picked up a free puck and skated around BJ defenseman Deron Quint, leaving him alone on Tugnutt. Maxim skated in front of the net and finally launched a shot that got past Tugnutt's glove. That tied the game at the at the 2:07 mark of the third period. That lead lasted just 6 minutes and the ‘Sandman' finally put the Sabres to sleep.

Sabres Talk

"Tonight we played a solid game," said Sanderson. "Tugger made some great saves on Buffalo, and held on for the win." Sanderson gave some motivational credit to the Sabres telecast crew for giving the Blue Jackets plenty of stimulus to beat the Sabres.
Former Sabre Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre skates in on Sabres defenseman Dmitri Kalinin in the first period. Grand-Pierre was able to feed another ex-Sabre, Geoff Sanderson for the game-winning goal in the third period.
[AP Photo/David Duprey]

"Tugger had a lot of motivation tonight," Sanderson said. "I saw Roby (Mike Robitaille of Empire's Hockey Hotline) didn't give us one check in the scouting report upstairs there (on the Empire pregame show). We had that on our TV before the game and we didn't get one category so we had some motivation in our locker room, and Tugger wasn't too happy."

Talking about his winning goal, Sanderson said, "it was a little turnover on a 4-on-4, and Luc kind of chipped it right through the defenseman's legs. I just gambled and went right up the middle, and squeaked through. I saw Marty.... I know he likes to open the legs and take it away really quick and it barely went through."

Jay McKee said he misses Sanderson's presence in the locker room.

"All the guys here really enjoyed having Sandy here," said McKee. "He was a great guy, a lot of fun, very humorous."

Ruff talked about the Sabres failure to score on the 4-minute penalty to Dineen.

"We didn't take advantage of the four-minute power play which I think probably should have been a major, after watching the replay," Ruff said. "If you don't go ahead early and if you don't take advantage of your chances, you're in for a tough night."

The Sabres go right at it again on Saturday night as they travel to Montreal to play the surprising Canadiens. Montreal leads the Northeast Division with a 4-2-1 record. Former Sabre Doug Gilmour played his first game with the Canadiens Friday night, in a 4-1 loss to the Washington Capitals. Gilmour still has some bitter feelings towards the Sabres and their management, as he felt he wasn't used properly last season.

"I was criticized in Buffalo last year, and I would like to show them something," commented Gilmour. "After 17 seasons at center they asked me to play left wing and just stay in my lane. That's not my kind of game. I spent the whole season trying to make them understand that."

"When you leave on terms I left on, it's tough," continued Gilmour. "I felt incomplete. My wife said, ‘You have to go one more time.' It was a little bit of a sour taste."

Friday night it was the Sandman's revenge..... Saturday night it could be Doug's retribution.


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