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NOTEBOOK: VANEK ISN'T GIVING UP

Wednesday, 02.20.2008 / 11:04 PM / News
By Brian Wheeler  - Sabres.com
Thomas Vanek (photo: Bill Wippert)
Dropping their last two games, the Buffalo Sabres badly needed two points coming into Wednesday's match-up with the Tampa Bay Lightning.  Through 43 minutes it looked as if the team's losing skid would extend to three but then one of their most talented players took over.

Thomas Vanek scored a pair of goals 36 seconds apart in the third period to tie the score and then redirected a Jaroslav Spacek pass for the game winner in overtime to elevate Buffalo to a 4-3 victory. 

The natural hat trick was the second of Vanek's career - coming four games after his first - and wiped out a solid performance by Johan Holmqvist, who had stifled Buffalo for much of the game by making 42 saves. 

"It's a funny game," said Vanek.  "I was watching New York and Montreal last night and Montreal had a great comeback.  It just shows you that you can't give up."

This season hasn't been all roses for the third-year professional.  His slow start brought much criticism, some of the harshest being self inflicted.  But he's rebounded in the last 11 games by scoring 12 goals, including five in his last three.

"We need him," said head coach Lindy Ruff regarding Vanek, who along with linemate Derek Roy were the only two Sabres to register goals in the last three games.  "We need him to play, we need him to score, we need him to be the guy that makes the difference in games."

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Jason Pominville was the last Sabres player to scored three consecutive goals.  He did so against Los Angeles on January 14, 2006 in a 10-1 Buffalo victory.  Phoenix's Peter Mueller was the last player in the league to accomplish the feat (Feb. 5).

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Since the start of the 2005-06 season, no team has been able to erase a two-goal deficit with as much ease as the Buffalo Sabres or Carolina Hurricanes.  Each club has comeback to win 20 games when down by a pair during that span.

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An unknown Sabres fan in the 300 Level got a chuckle out of the media.  Five minutes into the game, this boisterous spectator yelled out the following phrase as Martin St. Louis carried the puck over the red line. 

"Hit him, he's tiny."

A nice change of pace from the usual shouts that can be heard.

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The Buffalo Sabres have a true world-wide following.  Fans from Toni Lydman's hometown of  Lahti, Finland and Krakow, Poland traveled from their respective countries just to attend Wednesday night's tilt.  The Kiekkoreipas '93's  out of Finland and Michael Nowak, a graduate student from the University of Krakow working on his dissertation, both attended their first NHL games in HSBC Arena.

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