January 31, 2006
by Brian Wheeler
Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff challenged his team to finish with a record of 4-2 in Buffalo's longest road trip of the season. Scoring four unanswered goals Tuesday night, the team achieved Ruff's goal in their sixth consecutive road contest with a 5-2 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers at the Philips Arena.
Buffalo finished the road trip with a three-game winning streak, the team's first since December 19, after dropping games two and three in Calgary and Vancouver. The Sabres have scored 15 goals in that span, 11 of which were during even-strength play.
"We talked about our first couple of games in the West and I don't think we played the way we wanted to," said rookie Jason Pominville
of Buffalo's losses to Calgary and Vancouver. "We regrouped and really pulled things together after that."
Rookie Thomas Vanek
continued his hot streak with his fourth goal in three games, JP Dumont scored for the first time since November 17, and rookie Pominville notched his seventh in the last eight games with his first career shorthanded goal.
"The nail in the coffin was Pominville scoring the shorthanded one," said Ruff. "The effort by Pominville and (Jochen) Hecht led to that goal."
Pominville gave Buffalo the lead, which the Sabres would never relinquish, nine minutes into the second after forcing a turnover deep in Atlanta's zone.
Freeing Hecht on a breakaway with a nice up-ice pass between two defenders, Pominville trailed the play and converted on a miscue by Ilya Kovalchuk, when he attempted to stickhandle in front of his own net. Pominville simply whacked the puck off Kovalchuk's stick past Atlanta goaltender Kari Lehtonen.
"I don't think Kovalchuk knew I was following him," said Pominville. "It was an easy goal and I'll take it."
Ales Kotalik and Paul Gaustad also added individual markers. Ryan Miller
was spectacular in net for Buffalo, making 35 saves and held the Thrashers scoreless in the second and third periods.
"We weren't tight enough in our zone during the first period, which gave them a couple of great opportunities from the inside," said Ruff. "We really bounced back in the last 40 minutes."
Kotalik gave Buffalo the early lead with his team-leading 20th goal of the season after snapping a wristshot from the top of the right face-off circle.
Atlanta would tie the game six minutes later after a flurry of activity in Buffalo zone.
After two amazing saves by Ryan Miller
, the second of which was made flat on his stomach facing the net, Marian Hossa snapped a wristshot from the slot that beat the Sabres netminder on his glove side.
Scrambling to the end of the first period, Atlanta took a 2-1 lead with just 20 seconds remaining before intermission.
Skating behind the Sabres net, Petr Bondra fought through a check by Brian Campbell and found Ronald Petrovicky for a one-timer in the slot and the right wing's seventh goal of the season.
Chris Drury gunned a slapshot from the right face-off dot that was tipped by Vanek to tie the game four minutes into the second, extending the rookie's goal scoring streak to three games.
Pominville's thievery from Kovalchuk made the score 3-2.
Gaustad punched in Kotalik's rebound for his seventh goal of the season and a two-goal Buffalo lead 11 minutes into the third. The goal snapped a 13-game goalless steak for the Fargo, North Dakota native. Gaustad had not recorded a goal since December 19 at Philadelphia.
"(Gaustad) was a big man tonight that Atlanta couldn't handle," said Ruff. "He got down low, turned his back and spun off a lot of their players. Those types of efforts don't always show on the score sheet, but they really consume time and make it tough on the opposition."
Off a long pass from Teppo Numminen, Dumont snuck behind the Atlanta defense and snapped a wristshot past Lehtonen on his blocker side to make the score 5-2.
----------------------------------------------- SCORING REPORTS
| Super Stats
| Faceoff Comp
| Play By Play
| Shift Chart GAME BLOG:
1-0 (5:01): Ales Kotalik gives Buffalo the early lead with his team-leading 20th goal of the season. The tally is Kotalik's 10th at even strength. Dmitri Kalinin and Henrik Tallinder record the assists.
1-1 (11:52): After two amazing saves by Ryan Miller
- the second made while facing the net flat on his stomach - Marian Hossa snaps a wristshot from the slot the beats the Sabres netminder on his glove side. The marker is Hossa's 27th of the season.
1-2 (19:40): In the final minute of the first, Petr Bondra fought through a check by Brian Campbell behind the Sabres net and found Ronald Petrovicky for a one-timer in the slot. The goal is Petrovicky's seventh of the season. Period 2
2-2 (4:01): Chris Drury gunned a slapshot from the right faceoff dot that is tipped by Thomas Vanek
to tie the game. The goal is Vanek's 16th of the season and extends his scoring streak to three games. Drury gets the lone helper.
3-2 (9:08): With the first shorthanded goal of his career, Jason Pominville
gives Buffalo the lead. After freeing Jochen Hecht
on a breakaway with a nice up-ice pass between two defenders, Pominville slapped Hecht's rebound from Ilya Kovalchuk into the net. Kovalchuk was attempting to stickhandle the puck in front of his own net when the rookie whacked the puck for his 11th goal of the season. No assists were credited. Period 3
4-2 (11:00): Paul Gaustad punches in Ales Kotalik's rebound for his seventh goal of the season and a two-goal Buffalo lead. Buffalo has now scored three unanswered goals since the start of the second period. Gaustad had not recorded a goal since December 19 at Philadelphia. Kotalik gets the only assist.
5-2 (17:20): On a long pass from Teppo Numminen, JP Dumont sneaks behind the Atlanta defense and snaps a wristshot past Lehtonen on his blocker side. The goal is Dumont's seventh of the season and first since November 17 versus New Jersey. Numminen gets the primary assist, while Derek Roy
gets the secondary.
Quotes courtesy of WGR 550-AM, the official radio partner of the Buffalo Sabres.