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Sabres Central

Sabres winning streak comes to a screeching halt
By Rick Anderson
October 14, 2000

The road can be an awfully lonesome place, ask the Buffalo Sabres. After winning their first two home games, the Sabres were forced to leave the comforts of home and travel out west, where they always have a hard time. The first game on a three game road trip, the Sabres suffered their first loss of the season as the Edmonton Oilers kept pecking away at Dominik Hasek until they got two past him in the third period to beat the Sabres 3-2..

Stu Barnes tries to block Oilers' tough guy Georges Laraque as Laraque charges into the crease area. It was a David vs. Goliath battle, and this time Barnes was able to hold up Laraque long enough for Dominik Hasek to make the save in the first period.
[AP Photo/Edmonton Sun, Dan Riedlhuber]

With only 2 minutes left in the contest, Bill Guerin popped a shot over Hasek to win the game. The play happened after Doug Gilmour had a glorious chance to score on Tommy Salo and the Oilers took it straight up the ice with Ryan Smyth passing up to Bill Guerin. Guerin got past Miroslav Satan and in on Hasek alone. Hasek fell to the ice and Guerin flipped a backhander up top for the winner.

That goal came right after Dave Andreychuk put the Sabres back into the game when he rifled in a rebound of a Maxim Afinogenov blast. With the scored tied 2-2, the game appeared headed into overtime. But Guerin took care of that and the Oilers are leading their division at 3-1.

"We had a point but we have to do a better job of securing it," said Andreychuk about his late game goal. "They kept coming but we were letting them come. we can't leave Dom (stranded) out there."

Dominik Hasek, coming back from a strained knee ligament, was his former self in goal, making spectacular numerous saves and stopping 34 Oiler shots. But the three shots that did get past him frustrated the Dominator.

"We found a way to get to him," said Oiler coach Craig MacTavish said. "But it had to be absolutely tic-tac-toe passing."

"It's always tough getting the puck by him," added Guerin, who scored the final winning tally. "We knew we had to bear down and get the puck to the net."

Earlier in the third period, the Oilers took their first lead in the game after Zhitnik took a foolish boarding penalty. With around 12 minutes remaining in the game, Zhitnik took Williamsville native Todd Merchant to the boards and drew an immediate penalty. The Oilers capitalized on that Zhitnik blunder when Ryan Smyth deflected a Guerin pass into the empty short side of the net.

"Smytty did a great job squeezing by the guy against the wall and driving the net," praised Guerin. "I'm not known for my passing abilities."

The Weight line, which accounted for all 3 Edmonton goals, was a force to be reckoned with. The Sabres knew going in that the line was the Oilers top line and maybe they were wishing their captain, Michael Peca was in the lineup. In five games so far this season, the Weight line has combined for 17 points.

"We're playing as a unit out there," articulated Smyth. "We're not being selfish. We're going hard to the net and we're being creative."

If there was any worry about Hasek playing at less than 100%, he dispelled that notion quickly as he was flopping all over the ice and had the Oilers shaking their heads until late in the third period.

"Dom played fabulous," said Sabres coach Lindy Ruff. "He kept us in the game."

The Sabres offense, which had averaged 4.5 goals in their first two home games, went back to last year's offensive funk, especially in the second period when they were outshot 16-2.

"We were too much on the perimeter," Ruff analyzed. "We didn't generate many shots. Lots of good zone time, but nobody wanted to shoot the puck. And when we did shoot it, they blocked it."

The Sabres play their second straight road game tomorrow night in Vancouver, which starts at 10 PM EDT.

Sabres Talk

Eric Boulton decided to take on one of the toughest fighters in the National Hockey League in Georges Laraque. Laraque, who almost made mince meat out of Rob Ray the other year, was happy to tangle with the Sabres rookie.

"I asked him if he wanted to go," Boulton said. "He's the strongest guy I ever fought. That's my job if I want to play here. I can't be picking my spots."

While Boulton wasn't pummeled as much as Ray was, he definitely was the loser in this one. Maybe this is a valuable lesson for the Sabres new tough guy - pick you fights wisely. Ray learned that lesson from the same Laraque two years ago.

The Sabres, who were outshot 37-25, came close to getting a point in Edmonton despite being outplayed.

"It was one of those games where you're getting outplayed but you know you can get a bounce," defenseman Jason Woolley said. "We've played tons of games like that and we would have been happy with a tie."

Meanwhile, on the Peca front, all was quiet. After Peca announced that he wanted to be traded on Wednesday, the Sabres issued a no comment statement until they examined the delicate situation. On Friday, Sabres General Manager finally reflected on the Peca situation.

"A trade can never be the resolution to a contract issue," Regier said. "But I can also say that we don't have a lot of players that, under the right circumstances, you wouldn't trade. There is an inherent problem trading players in contract situations. You invite more of the same down the road."

It was during the press conference at the Pepsi Center in Amherst that Peca said, "I think it's time I move on with my career as a professional hockey player. I think it's time that the Buffalo Sabres moved on, too. I don't think that an ongoing process is going to benefit either side. We're in a position where I don't feel the gap is going to be bridged."

Regier is trying to walk the tight rope in the negotiations.

"The preference is always to have the player signed," analyzed Regier. "It's about recognizing that you're dealing with a team. There has to be a sense of fairness with everyone's contract."

Friday night in Edmonton, the Sabres could have used their captain's hitting along with his fiery intensity. Right now it stands that the Sabres will have to get used to playing without him for quite a while.

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