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Eight Equals Two Game Lead

by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres
The Buffalo Sabres squashed any butterflies that may have been in their stomachs from the team's lack of post-season experience on Monday night. Scoring five unanswered goals in the first period, Buffalo rolled to an 8-2 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers in front of a sold-out crowd at HSBC Arena.

"It was just quick speed," said head coach Lindy Ruff. "We beat them a little bit on the breakout and we beat them a little bit up ice. They've got forwards up front that can skate. I just thought we did a little better job."

"We were overwhelmed in the first ten minutes," said Flyers head coach Ken Hitchcock. "That's my responsibility. We made critical errors on the first second and third goals, and (Buffalo) fed off that energy.

"We were embarrassed tonight. We were embarrassed for our fans, and we were embarrassed for the city of Philadelphia with the way we played. We've got to make amends when we go back home."

JP Dumont and Jason Pominville, who boasted a combined 15 games of playoff experience coming into the contest, became the first duo in Sabres history to record a pair of hat tricks in the same playoff game. Dumont completed the feat on just three shots.

"It's an unbelievable feeling and something you don't even dream about," said Pominville. "To have the chance to compete for the cup and then to get three goals is just unbelievable."

"You know right away, when the puck seems to follow you around the ice, that you're going to have some great chances," said Dumont. "It was a big game for myself, but the entire team played so well tonight."

Jim Lorentz, Gilbert Perreault, Dave Andreychuk, John Tucker and Matthew Barnaby are the only others Sabres to ever record a hat trick during a post-season game.

"We had a good start to this game and we built off it," Pominville said. "We expect Game 3 to be a lot harder and probably the toughest game that we will have played all year."

With the victory, Buffalo took a commanding 2-0 lead in the best of seven series. The Sabres will travel to Philadelphia on Wednesday to face the Flyers at the Wachovia Center for Game 3.

"We made some great plays (in the first period)," said Ruff. "We came out, we were ready."

Following his stellar 55 save performance in the first game of the series, Robert Esche returned to earth in Game 2 and his landing wasn't too gentle. Buffalo chased Esche from Philadelphia's pipes after just one period of work, scoring five goals off ten shots in the first. Rookie Antero Niittymaki replaced the veteran netminder at the beginning of the second and finished the game allowing three goals on 18 shots.

"We have four lines that can go at it and if we use our speed, we are a tough team to beat," said Dumont. "We have a lot of success when we use our speed and we're going to make sure that we do that (in Game 3)."

Ryan Miller remained undefeated during the post-season, recording his second victory of the series with 20 saves.

Things began to get a little chippy as the Buffalo lead expanded to a half dozen. The Sabres finished with 12 total power plays, the most since Buffalo's 9-3 victory over Boston in Game 6 of the 1992 playoffs. Philadelphia was assessed 61 minutes in penalties, including a pair of 10-minute misconducts and a game misconduct.

"The more they acted like idiots, the more we wanted to play," said Ruff. "There's frustration and that's not a fun game to be in. But we took advantage of some early plays, and they were great plays, but nothing to go down that road."

Buffalo jumped all over Philadelphia from the opening puck drop, scoring a pair of goals in the first three minutes of play.

Dumont scored Buffalo's first goal on a great individual effort. Stripping the puck at the Sabres blueline, Dumont rushed in on a two-on-one, stickhandled around a Philadelphia defenseman and snapped the puck top shelf over a downed Esche at 1:41.

Buffalo's second goal came courtesy of the third ranked power-play unit in the league during the regular season.

Playing the point, Connolly faked a shot - getting Sami Kapanen to sprawl on the ice - skated to the right wing and laced an across-ice pass to Chris Drury for the one-timer and a two-goal Buffalo lead at 3:00.

The scoring burst was the fourth time in Sabres post-season history the team opened the game with a pair in the first three minutes of a game. Connolly would finish with a pair of assists, while Drury added an assist to go with his first period tally.

Connolly recorded his second assist of the night after feathering a pass from the slot on a three-on-two rush to Ales Kotalik, who blasted a one-timer between Esche's legs at the 12:26 mark.

Jay McKee forced a turnover at Buffalo's blueline, which was collected by Paul Gaustad, who slung a long pass to Jason Pominville just outside the Flyers' zone. The rookie winger gunned a slapshot into the top-right corner of the net for a four-goal Buffalo lead at 14:36.

With just 13.9 seconds remaining in the first, Briere slung an across-crease pass to Dumont on the backdoor, which the winger redirected into the open net for his second of the game.

Simon Gagne's wristshot from the top of the right face-off circle just 58 seconds into the second for Philadelphia's only goal in two periods.

Dumont notched the sixth playoff hat trick in franchise history with Buffalo's second power-play goal of the game at the 9:42 mark of the second.

Following Denis Gauthier's five-minute major penalty for checking from behind and subsequent game misconduct, Briere stuck a pass on Dumont's stick from behind the net that the forward slammed past Niittymaki.

"I knew on the power-play that Briere and Drury were going to be looking for me," said Dumont. "I was just trying to get myself open."

Petr Nedved one-timed Eric Desjardins' rebound over Miller's glove for Philadelphia's second goal of the game at 5:47 of the third.

Pominville tipped Teppo Numminen's shot from the right point for his second goal of the game and a five-goal Sabres lead at 8:35, and completed the hat trick after one-timing Paul Gaustad's blind pass over Niittymaki's right pad at 18:32.
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