Site hosted by Build your free website today!
Sabres Central

Noronen wins second as Sabres stage comeback
By Rick Anderson
October 8, 2000

Jan. 31, 1993 was the last time Dave Andreychuk scored a goal for the Buffalo Sabres. Saturday night, Andreychuk spanned that gap by scoring his first Sabres goal in almost 8 years and extended his franchise record for powerplay goals to 154. Even more importantly, his goal helped ice the Los Angeles Kings 5-3.

Sabres rookie goaltender, Mika Noronen, stops a shot by Kings left winger Luc Robitaille. Mathieu Schneider is ready to pounce on any rebound as he stands in front of the crease.
[AP Photo/Don Heupel]

The way things started off for the Sabres, fans were thinking that Sabres rookie goalie Mika Noronen was going to be yanked from the nets in his first NHL start. The Kings scored two quick powerplay goals on last year's AHL Rookie of the Year. The way the Sabres were defending their zone, it appeared as if a 8-2 game wasn't out of the question. However, both Noronen and the Sabres buckled down, strapped their ears back and played much better hockey the rest of the way.

"They were power-play goals," said Noronen, who is now 2-0 in the Sabres first two games. "I just shook them off and I just didn't let it bother me."

After having to make only 15 saves in his previous game against the Black Hawks, Noronen was being tested by a much better team.

"I think we were surprised that L.A. came out like that," said Stu Barnes. "Anytime you get down 2-0 that quickly, regardless if you know that they've got some very good hockey players over there, I think it still kind of takes you back a bit." "If you look at the first period, I think we were a little bit stunned," said Sabres coach Lindy Ruff after the game. "It wasn't a verbal outrage or anything, but it was getting back to competing. We talked about desire and competing. I didn't like our intensity. We didn't finish checks, it was all the little things. It was getting back to competing, being a better offensive team and defensive team than them."

So after only mustering 4 shots on Kings goalie Jamie Storr in the first period, the Sabres came out loaded for bear in the second. The Buffalo shooters rattled off 14 shots on Storr in the second stanza and that produced results.

J.P. Dumont, the "other half" of that Grosek deal last March that also landed the Sabres Doug Gilmour, provided even more dividends against the Kings. Dumont picked off a pass around the left circle and passed the puck over to Vaclav Varada. Varada, who is not a world renowned goal scorer, put the puck through Storr's pads to cut the Kings lead in half with a little over 5 minutes gone in the second period.

J.P. Dumont tries the wrap-around as the Kings' Nelson Emerson attempts to block his shot. At the same time, LA goalie Jamie Storr gets his stick up to interfere with Dumont.
[AP Photo/Don Heupel]

At the 11 minute mark, Stu Barnes threw a perfect pass to Dumont, who was stationed in front of Storr. Dumont swiped at the puck in mid-air and he batted it home to tie the game.

"He's an opportunist," Gilmour talked about his Chicago and now Sabres' teammate. "He's a guy who around the net can score goals. Some teams need that. We're one of those." With 1:18 left on the clock in the second, Barnes gave the Sabres s 3-2 lead when his pass in front of Storr, deflected off a skate and past Storr. It was an incredible comeback for the Sabres who were ever so close to being blown out of their own building in the first few minutes of the game.

With 3/4 of the third period gone, the Sabres went on a powerplay, and the King of Sabres powerplays, Andreychuk, finally got another goal to add to his team-leading stats.

"It seems like it's been a lot shorter than that," Andreychuk said referring to the big gap between goals he's scored with the Sabres. "When you say 8 years, I guess it has been that long. The team showed real good character tonight. We talked about it in between the first period, ‘let's just keep it simple, and chip away.' We had a lot of good character things happen tonight, we come back against what is a pretty good hockey team."

"The power play is a big part of the game," continued Andreychuk, who was obviously enjoying his first Sabres goal in almost 8 years. "We spent a lot of time working on it. We're going to need some big goals during the season, and on the power play is where to do it."

However, Glen Murray put the Kings right back in the game when he scored at the 17:10 mark. While the Kings were frantically trying to tie up the game in the last minute, the Sabres had several chances to score into the empty net. Finally, Varada notched his second of the night when he had a breakaway and he slid the puck into the empty net with under two ticks left on the clock.

The Sabres next game is Friday the 13th in Edmonton. From there, they travel to Vancouver to play the Canucks the next night. Dominik Hasek said that he's hopeful to play at least one of those games next weekend.

Sabres Talk

Dave Andreychuk's return has not only helped with the Sabres powerplay, which was the worst in the NHL last year, but he brings veteran leadership that is needed in the absence of Sabres' captain Michael Peca.

"We're jelling together pretty well," Andreychuk said about the Sabres fast start. "I think the Charleston trip was a pretty good thing for us. We took 24 guys, we worked on some systems, we got together as a team. We want to get off to a good start. Points are so valuable down the end, they're tough to come by and we don't want any slip through our hands at the beginning of the year."

Andreychuk was asked how he felt about Maxim Afinogenov.

"The main thing with Max is to go out and have fun, and give him a lot of confidence" Andreychuk said. "He's a guy who's going to say and he reminds me a lot of Alex (Mogilny) in his younger days. I've told him to just take off when I get it to him. He's using his legs right now... the line is going pretty well. We've played together right from the start of training camp. Max is a guy who needs confidence - when he gets some confidence, he's a pretty good player."

The Sabres goal this year was to come out of the gates on a tear, unlike last year when they didn't get their first victory until the 8th game.

"Last year was really a disappointing start," Ruff said about the Sabres 7 game winless streak in 1999 to start the season. "This game could have turned ugly, but I think we showed a lot of character. We had a lot of individuals really step up to the plate and we got big efforts from them."

"I talked to Chris (Gratton) just about skating," Ruff said. "Don't get caught standing, just try to keep skating. I think the key to that line too was Maxim was really skating. That pulled the things up for Dave (Andreychuk) and Chris. He can lead the rush and those two guys can come from behind. I think it makes a world of difference. The way he skated tonight is the key to that line."

Mika Noronen showed signs of a complete meltdown Saturday as he allowed two goals on the Kings' first two powerplays. But he rebounded like a veteran and his confidence seems to be growing with leaps and bounds. Noronen finished with 19 saves and his second straight NHL win under his belt.

"When the game started, I felt great confidence," Noronen said. "They had a couple powerplays and they scored two goals. I didn't have those, I just didn't make the saves today. I'm happy that our team didn't put our heads down and they just keep playing."

Noronen was asked if any of his players came over to say anything after the Kings' first goals.

"Actually no, they didn't say anything," the Sabres 21-year old rookie said. "I think they were thinking ‘Can he play or not' but they didn't say anything."

About being nervous before his first NHL regular season start, Noronen said, "Before the game, I was nervous, it's normal before every game. But I think I was a little bit more. When I went out there, I felt very good. Of course, I'm not so nervous any more. But there are so many things I have to learn still. Sometimes I come out too much, sometimes I don't. I still have many things to learn about reading the game."

Noronen reflected on what he could have done differently to prevent the first two Los Angeles strikes.

"The first one I gave rebounds right in front of me. I should do something else... I gave the rebound there. The second goal, I never seen before have so a hard shot, so I was surprised - it was a great shot."


Copyright © 2000 Sabres Central, all rights reserved