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Sabres Central

Sabres look punchless in 3 defeats
By Rick Anderson
February 1, 2003

The Blues' Keith Tkachuk lands on the ice as Sabres' Dmitri Kalinin Martin Biron attempt to gain control of the puck in the Blues 2-1 overtime victory over the Sabres.
[AP Photo/Tom Gannam]

It was a week of 3 goals. The Buffalo Sabres played 3 games and got a total of 1 goal in each game. Two overtime losses were sandwiched around a horrible 5-1 loss to the Nashville Predators. Three losses, three goals, two points. That was the week that the Sabres would soon like to forget.

Thursday night in St. Louis, the game ended in much the same fashion as Saturday's loss to the Ottawa Senators. Both games were tied 1-1 at the end of regulation. In both overtimes, the Sabres had glorious chances to win it, only to suffer gut-wrenching defeat.

Biron hot, Miller not

Martin Biron's three game shutout streak finally came to an end after 221 minutes, 58 seconds of perfect goaltending. The Daniel Alfredsson scored in the second period to rob Biron from tying the league record 4 straight shutout mark. Then it was Alfredsson again who beat Biron with 2:38 remaining in overtime to defeat the Sabres 2-1.

"The overtime goal barely trickled through my legs," Biron described the winning goal. "I couldn't find Alfredsson. As soon as the puck went up to him, I knew it was going to be a one-timer. His shot was really heavy and it got through my knees."

Biron was the hottest goalie in the league for 3 games. He will never forget his glorious stretch of 3 straight shutouts.

"It was a great run," admitted Biron. "I don't know if I'll ever get three back-to-back-to-back like that again."

Thursday night in St. Louis, it was Biron in the nets again after Miller's less than spectacular performance against the Predators Monday. Biron was once again brilliant in the nets, stopping 29 shots and literally standing on his head to keep the Sabres in the game. In fact, the Sabres had taken a 1-0 lead on J.P. Dumont's goal. In the third period, the Blues took charge of the game when they kept the pressure on Biron, getting 11 shots on the Buffalo goalie. Meanwhile the Sabres could muster only 3 shots on Brent Johnson in the final period, 15 in all.

Dallas Drake tied the game up in the third when he was able to get all alone in front of Biron on the right and he popped a pass top shelf over Biron.

"We played a pretty solid game until the third, then they really started to pour it on and got some good opportunities," explained Lindy Ruff. "Marty had to make four or five big saves for us."

In the overtime, the Sabres almost scored when Brian Campbell hit a post. Moments later, the Blues had a dramatic victory. Pavol Demitra slid a pass over to Tkachuk, who was falling down in front of Biron. Tkachuk somehow was able to slip the puck past Biron. The Sabres goalie claimed it was directed in by Tkachuk's sake. Tkachuk claimed otherwise.

"I just went to the net,'' said Tkachuk. "It was ugly, that's all I can say."

"The way it looked, it went off Tkachuk's leg and bounced up in the air," described Biron. "But that's the way things happen."

The Sabres protested the goal, but the refs said that the ruling upstairs proved it was a legit goal.

Sabres prey of Predators

The Sabres have never beaten the Predators in Buffalo. That record remained in tack after Monday's fiasco. The Sabres definitely appeared as if they were suffering from the after affects of attending a Super Bowl party. Not one Sabre showed for the game on the ice, and it was the same in the stands. The announced crowd was 10,799, but before a national televison audience, it looked more like 7,000.

Miller, who had been hot the last time in nets for the Sabres, appeared very rusty after a 4-game layoff. Miller got turned backwards on the Adam Hall's goal and then Vitali Yachmenev and Rem Murray scored less than a minute apart to end any comeback hopes of the Sabres in the first period.

"It wasn't that we were dominating the game and we had a goaltender that was letting us down," explained Ruff. "It was a game where you might as well put all 20 guys in a hat and throw the hat out the window."

"I think for two periods we didn't win an offensive-zone faceoff," Ruff continued. "Coming up ice, I don't know if we made two consecutive passes. It was a poor, poor effort. From a forward standpoint we didn't pay any price at all in the offensive zone. From a defensive standpoint we didn't knock any bodies down. We were very poor in clearing pucks, turnovers that led to goals."

Miller, who seemed to be turning the corner to becoming a great goaltender, may have been left in the game too long. Also, the long layoff appeared to be a big factor in the early goals.

"It's the first time in a couple months where I don't feel like I played great," described Miller.

"You gotta be ready to play. I just don't feel like I was in a spot to make the saves for the boys. I'll take fault in that."

Usually, when the Sabres get down 2-0 or 3-0 early, Ruff will switch goalies. Not this time. Ruff decided to stick it out with his rookie.

"I think he just wanted to see what I was made out of," asserted Miller. "I think I reacted OK."

Sabres Talk

After the pathetic Nashville game, Rob Ray went on a rant.

"The guys weren't accountable," Ray vented. "There wasn't a guy in this room that did what he was supposed to do, much less do it well. There's not a person in here who said he played decent. Maybe we got to a point where we weren't mentally prepared.

"We haven't done really anything all year," Ray continued. "Big deal. You went on a little streak. But where did it get us? We're still in second-to-last place. We can't go unbeaten in eight straight and then go out and (play that poorly). We have to show some pride."

Ruff was equally miffed over the ugly loss.

"That was unacceptable and ugly," Ruff said after the game, "A real bonehead game."

The Sabres played much better against the Blues, but still could only get one goal.

"You're never happy when you lose a game," said Sabres captain Stu Barnes. "There's no question about that. But in the grand scheme we have to be happy we got a point against a darn good hockey team. A game with no score, any time you can get a goal, I think it will take some of the excitement of the other team. That's why you have to play 60 minutes, in this case 65."

Ruff wanted the win badly against St. Louis.

"Typically when you create chances you get one going one way and the other team's going to get one going the other way," Ruff said. "They put theirs in, we didn't. We got a point but I think we gave one away."

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