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Sabres Central

Devils powerplay does in Sabres
By Rick Anderson
October 28, 2001

Martin Brodeur dives to block a shot by Buffalo's Curtis Brown in first period action in New Jersey.
[AP Photo/Bill Kostroun]

Playing without 3 of their regular defensemen, the Buffalo Sabres still put up an wall in front starting backup goalie Bob Essensa Saturday night in New Jersey. The only problem was that the New Jersey Devils still found a couple of cracks in the wall during powerplays and were able to defeat the Sabres 3-1 despite getting off only 11 shots on goal.

With just under 4 minutes left to play in the game, Petr Sykora scored the game winner against Essensa while the Devils had the man advantage and the Sabres blew an opportunity to at least get a weekend split of back-to-back games they played. Instead, the Sabres travel home empty handed and find themselves back at the .500 mark again.

Curtis Brown was the man in the box when Sykora notched the winning goal.

"Most nights you can play pretty bad and get one goal," Brown said. "It's tough because that's not how we played tonight. We played strong and generated a lot of chances. We just have to keep our chins up."

Defense comes up big despite being short staffed

The Sabres' Chris Gratton upends New Jersey's Sergei Brylin in front of the goal during the first period of a 3-1 loss to the Devils.
[AP Photo/Bill Kostroun]

Despite missing half their starters, the Sabres defense came up with a stellar effort in front of Essensa. The Devils had a team record low of only 11 shots on goal. On most nights, that's a period's worth of shots. The Sabres offense couldn't get anything past Devils' goalie Martin Brodeur, who stopped 20 of 21 shots.

With Rhett Warrener and Dimitri Kalinin joining Richard Smehlik on the injured list, the Sabres brought up Brian Campbell and Rory Fitzpatrick as replacements at the blue line. The only real mistake that Campbell made was taking a cross-checking penalty at the 12:27 mark of the first period. Just five seconds later, Jason Arnott put the rubber behind Essensa. The Devils only generated 5 shots in the opening stanza and scored on one of them.

The Sabres got their lone goal when J.P. Dumont went in on a breakaway at the 1:42 mark of the second period. It appeared as if the Sabres were going to force overtime until Brown took his hooking penalty. Give the Devils and inch and they'll take a mile.

Gilmour and Varada get slapped on the wrists

One game! That's all the NHL dished out as punishment to both Doug Gilmour and Vaclav Varada for their "intent to injure" hits Friday. Varada had attempted to jump over Jose Theodore, who had come way out of the crease near the blue line and slid in an effort to take the puck away from a charging Varada. Varada's jump wouldn't have even gotten him a 1 rating from the judges as his knee clipped Theodore's head, giving the goalie a concussion. Meanwhile, Gilmour came across the ice to deliver his brand of reparation for knocking out the second Habs goalie in a week. Gilmour stuck out his right knee and swiped Varada's right knee like a pro golfer hitting the ball out of a sand trap. Varada went down for the count.

One game suspensions for each is trivial at best. Gilmour's intent was to end Varada's career. Just because Gilmour's career is literally over doesn't mean that he has to take another player out with him. The NHL is sending a message here to the enforcers in the league and it isn't pretty. Expect more of these cheap shots in the future. Now that fighting is all but eliminated because of the instigator rule, you can see cheap shots to the knees and helmets replacing the fist as the brand of justice instilled by players on the ice.

Sabres Talk

With half their blueliners out with injuries, the Sabres counted on veterans like James Patrick to come to the rescue.

Jason Wolley sends the Devils' Colin White airborne as he uplifts him with a check in the first period.
[AP Photo/Bill Kostroun]

"It's pretty frustrating," Patrick talked about how limited the Devils to only 11 shots wasn't enough. "We did a lot of good things, but the penalty killing wasn't strong enough. With the skill players they have and Rafalski on the point, you don't want to mess with that power play."

Essensa, who allowed two powerplay goals (the final Devils tally was into an empty net), now is 0-2 in his two starts.

"I think we played a real good, solid road game...... really," Essensa said in a style that attempted to be convincing. "With a depleted defensive corps, I thought we did everything we needed to do to win this game."

Then Essensa changed his tune to the opposite chord.

"We did everything but do what was necessary to win the game."

Bobby Holik, who scored the Devils final goal into the vacated Sabres net, knew the Devils were lucky to win this one.

"We need the wins," said Holik. "We're not in the position to say we were horrible. We'll take the win right now. Other than that, we did nothing. Right now, we're just dazed and confused out there. We can do a lot better."

The Sabres had a horrible weekend while shorthanded. Not only were they shorthanded on the defensive front, but when defending against their opponents powerplay, they were pretty pathetic. The Sabres allowed goals on both the Canadiens powerplays on Friday. On Saturday, the Sabres were stung 2 out of 3 times.

"Really, the last two games it has cost us," lamented Sabres coach Lindy Ruff. "We let three straight powerplay goals go in against us, and then the game winner. Obviously, that hurts. When two of our defensemen that kill on the penalty kill are out and our best penalty killing forward (Brown) is sitting in the box, it definitely hurts."

Doug Gilmour is getting support for his actions from plenty of goalies around the league. Martin Brodeur, who played with Gilmour while he was with the Devils, applauded Gilmour for sticking up for his goalie.

"There's no need in the NHL to run goalies," said Brodeur. "Goalies are an important part of the team. They can't allow things to happen to goalies. We can't defend ourselves. That shows how much of a team player Dougie is. He played here in New Jersey - he's a guy that I really love, who really cares about his players. And I think he did the right thing to a certain extent, make sure that he sends a signal to all of his other players on that team and the other teams, also."

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