Another Bump In The Road
April 1, 2006
by Brian Wheeler
After snapping its longest losing streak of the season with a 4-3 victory over the Boston Bruins last Thursday, the Buffalo Sabres have stumbled into another pothole. Skating in their third game in four days, Buffalo allowed five unanswered Toronto goals in the first period in a 7-0 loss at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday night, the team's second loss in as many games.
"We tried to tighten things up, but it just seemed like every opportunity we gave them went into the net," said head coach Lindy Ruff, whose team fell 3-1 to the New Jersey Devils at the Continental Airlines Arena on Friday night. "They came out hard, as hard as I expected with having three days off and being ready to play. They out skated us, out worked us in the first 20 minutes and they got rewarded for it."
In the first game of the weekend series between the two teams, Toronto prevented the Sabres from clinching their first playoff berth in five years. Buffalo needs just a point or an Atlanta loss to secure its postseason position. The two teams will meet again in Toronto this Monday.
"Toronto really skated well," said Ruff. "They have some personnel that really forecheck hard and they really took advantage of us."
Ryan Miller and Martin Biron each felt the Leafs wrath in the first period. Miller started in net but was replaced by Biron six minutes into the opening period after allowing three goals on six shots. The rookie netminder finished the game allowing five goals on 17 shots after returning to backstop Buffalo in the second and third periods.
Biron didn't fair much better than his counterpart, stopping just four of six shots during 14 minutes of work.
"As a team we have got to be better and (the goaltending) has got to be better too," said Ruff. "(Miller and Biron) have had some tough times and we've been able to overcome some of those times in the past. Right now, we haven't been able to. But we've got to support them better at times like this also."
With a strong forecheck that forced a turnover in Buffalo's zone, Toronto took the early lead just two minutes into the first period. After Derek Roy coughed up the puck along the boards, Jeff O'Neill fought through Jay McKey to the slot and fired low just inside the right post for his 17th goal of the season at 2:05.
Two minutes later, Ian White's slapshot from the left point caromed off Rory Fitzpatrick's skate past Miller at 4:49 to increase Toronto's lead to a pair of goals.
At 5:28, Clarke Wilm deflected Luke Richardson's shot from the right point to Tie Domi at the right post for the easy one-timer, Domi's fifth of the season and a 3-0 Toronto lead.
Biron replaced Miller in net after Toronto's third goal.
Mats Sundin's slapshot from the point deflected off Chris Drury and Nik Antropov, and skipped past Biron for Toronto's fourth goal at 6:24.
With five minutes remaining in the first, Sundin curled from behind the Sabres net and found Antropov, who spun and slipped the puck underneath Biron's right pad for his second goal of the game and a 5-0 Toronto lead.
Receiving a pass from Darcy Tucker in the high slot, Alexei Ponikarovsky fired a bullet over Miller's glove into the top-right corner of the net for his 19th goal of the season at 4:43 of the third.
While Fitzpatrick sat in the penalty box for hooking, Alex Steen deked around Toni Lydman and fed Matt Stajan with an across-crease pass for the easy one-timer and a seven-goal Toronto lead.
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0-1 (2:05): After Toronto's forecheck forced a Derek Roy turnover in Buffalo's zone, Jeff O'Neill fought through Jay McKee to the slot and fired low just inside the right post for his 17th goal of the season. Alex Steen and Bryan McCabe get the helpers.
0-2 (4:49): Off a faceoff win by Matt Stajan in Buffalo's zone, Ian White fired a slapshot from the left point that caroms off Rory Fitzpatrick's skate past Ryan Miller. The goal is unassisted.
0-3 (5:28): Clarke Wilm deflects Luke Richardson's shot from the right point to Tie Domi at the right post for the easy one-timer and a three-goal Toronto lead. The goal is Domi's fifth of the season.
0-4 (6:24): Mats Sundin's slapshot from the point, following a turnover by Toni Lydman, deflects off Chris Drury and then Nik Antropov and past Martin Biron for Toronto's fourth goal and Antropov's ninth of the season. Sundin and Alexei Ponikarovsky get the helpers.
0-5 (15:20): Mats Sundin curls from behind the Sabres net and found Nik Antropov, who spun and slipped the puck underneath Martin Biron's right pad. The goal is Antropov's 10th of the season and second of the game. Sundin and Ponikarovsky get the helpers.
0-6 (4:43): Receiving a pass from Darcy Tucker in the high slot, Alexei Ponikarovsky fires a bullet over Miller's glove and into the top-right corner of the net for his 19th goal of the season. Tucker and Kyle Wellwood get the helpers.
0-7 (10:21): On a power play, Alex Steen deked around Toni Lydman and fed Matt Stajan with an across-crease pass for the easy one-timer and a seven-goal Toronto lead. The goal is Stajan's 11th of the season. Steen and Ian White get the assists.
Quotes courtesy of WGR 550-AM, the official radio partner of the Buffalo Sabres.