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Sabres Central

Biron is Dominating against the Habs
By Rick Anderson
October 21, 2001

When Dominik Hasek was traded to Detroit, the buzz in the hockey world was that the Buffalo Sabres would be devastated because they wouldn't have The Dominator in goal to be their last line of defense. However, the Sabres brass knew that they had an excellent replacement in Martin Biron. Biron had been waiting in the wings since he played his first game with the Sabres when he was only 18. Saturday night, Biron proved that he can be just as good as the Dominator in his hey day as he stopped 29 shots in helping his Buffalo Sabres beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 in the Molson Centre.

In his first game against his former teammates, Doug Gilmour clanks his shot off the post with Sabres goalie Martin Biron manning the pipes. Biron made 29 saves in recording his 4th win of the season.
[AP Photo/Ryan Remiorz]

The Sabres took a quick 1-0 lead after the Habs starting goalie, Jeff Hackett, was injured on the first shot on goal. His replacement, Jose Theodore, allowed a rather fluky goal on the first shot he faced. Alexei Zhitnik got a shot off from the point and Slava Kozlov was able to redirect it in midair towards Theodore. Theodore looked like he was trying to mount a horse as he raised his right leg and the puck went through the space vacated and into the net.

"I was kind of lucky," admitted Kozlov. "Alex got a pretty good shot, and it was a tough play for a goaltender to stop. There was nothing he could do."

After that, the Canadiens pelted Biron in an effort to tie the score, but the young Sabres goalie was up to the task. It wasn't until Richard Zednik got a pass from former embittered Sabre Doug Gilmour out in front of Biron. Biron made the first save, but Zednik got the rebound and popped it over the Sabres goalie. Biron was less than 4 minutes away from his first shutout of the season.

"You can't say we didn't play well," said the Habs Brian Savage. "I thought we dominated them, actually. If it weren't for their goaltender, we would have blown them out."

That may have been true, but after Zednik got the Canadiens into a tie with Buffalo, the Sabres came right back and got the home crowd out of it again. It only took 22 seconds after Zednik's goal for the Sabres to retake the lead. Maxim Afinogenov took a shot on Theodore and this time it was Chris Gratton who deflected the shot past the backup goalie.

"That goal (by Zednik) got their building back in it," reflected Gratton. "It got really loud. We just wanted to get a solid shift and not make any mistakes. It was a good momentum breaker (Gratton's goal) and kind of woke us up a little bit."

Sabres coach Lindy Ruff agreed with Gratton's assessment.

"They could have built a little momentum," said Ruff, "but we answered the bell and that quieted the crowd right down."

When Gratton scored, you could see on the Sabres bench that the players were ecstatic about the lightning retaliatory strike by Buffalo. With Biron playing the way he was, the knew they could batten down the hatches and hold down the fort to come away with two points in Montreal. The Habs peppered Biron with 17 shots in the final period, but except for that one goal by Zednik, he was a brick wall.

The comparisons will always be made. Similar to the Doug Flutie and Rob Johnson comparisons in football. Just how does Biron compare to his former master? Hasek has gotten off to a great start as his Red Wings are leading the Central Division with a 7-1 record, but he has the equivalent of an all-star team in front of him. Biron, meanwhile, has less talent in front of him than the Dominator had while he was in Buffalo. Hasek has a 2.44 GAA and a save percentage of .910, while Biron has better numbers with a 1.87 GAA and a .929 save percentage.

With a minute remaining, the Canadiens pulled Theodore in favor of an extra attacker and Buffalo was able to clear it into the Montreal zone. Curtis Brown and passed to Erik Rasmussen, who flipped it into the empty Canadien net from the blue line and it was lights out in Montreal.

Sabres Talk

After gaining only one point out of a possible four against two former expansion teams the Predators and Blue Jackets, it was good to see the Sabres come out with drive and intensity. Gratton getting the Sabres back in the lead just 22 seconds after the Canadiens had tied it up showed just how determined the Sabres were to not let the Habs get back into the game.

Former Sabre Doug Gilmour collides with Miroslav Satan at center ice during the second period in the Molson Centre.
[AP Photo/Ryan Remiorz]

"To get scored on at that time of the game is a little disheartening,"said Gratton. "We played a pretty strong game up to that point and they just outworked us for the goal. Dougie made some great plays with the puck down low and they cycled the puck really well and it was a great goal. They scored a big goal there and got the building back into it."

"We wanted to go back out there and not let anything come against us, and not let them get anything going in our zone," Gratton reflected. "We did a good job forechecking and we got rewarded for it."

The ever talkative Biron agreed with Gratton.

"Character has been the key this year with us, coming back after two periods twice already to win games," Biron articulated. "Tonight, you give them a chance to tie it and you come back 22 seconds later. That's been the case in our first eight games, character, just the way the guys step up to play the game after something put us down a little bit."

Hackett started the game in goal for the Canadiens but was taken out on the first play. He attempted to pull in a rebound of a shot by Denis Hamel and somehow dislocated his left shoulder.

"It's difficult for us because Jeff had been playing really well," said Canadiens coach Michel Therrien. "There's not much to say when one of your best players gets hurt like that."

Gilmour was envisioning the kind of game that Geoff Sanderson had against his former teammates the night before when Sanderson's goal was the game winner against Buffalo. Gilmour did have a hand in the tying goal, but otherwise, it was a quiet night for the "Killer."

"It was a good feeling to be back out there playing again," Gilmour told reporters. "Give me a little more time and I'll be much better."

Then Gilmour talked about his new team.

"I felt we were in there all night, but we wound up having to kill a lot of penalties. That's something we'll have to reflect on tomorrow. We'll have to play with a lot more discipline."

Gilmour had left Buffalo in a huff when he took some shots at Empire Sports Hockey Hotline for toting the "company line" all year, especially with the then unresolved Michael Peca situation. He also was upset with Ruff not playing him at his natural center position more. Then, last week, Gilmore made some comments on an all-sports Toronto radio station last week where he said that Sabres GM Darcy Regier helped foil his chance of landing on the Ottawa Senators' lineup.

"It wasn't our decision to make," Regier retorted. "And in no way would we ever attempt to negatively influence any player's opportunity to play in the National Hockey League. We have nothing to be ashamed of, organizationally, in regard to Doug Gilmour."

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