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Not a Pretty Win

by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres
Jochen Hecht will remember his first goal of the 2005-06 season for quite some time. With only 20.4 seconds remaining in overtime and a shootout against Mario Lemieux, Sidney Crosby and company looming, Hecht hacked and chopped the Sabres to a 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins at HSBC Arena on Monday night.

"I saw the puck somewhere near (Penguins' goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury's skate) and decided to just whack at it because I didn't have a chance to make another play," said Hecht, describing the game-winning goal. "I was just going to the net and was yelling to (Tim Connolly) to shoot the puck."

Connolly obliged Hecht's request and looped a shot from a bad angle on Fleury. The result was an ugly play that gave the Sabres their first 3-0-0 start at home since the 1984-85 season.

"It was the effort on the goal," stated Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff following the game. "Just to go in there and hack away at it is the key to that goal. You have to give Fleury some credit, he made some great saves."

The winner was the only time during the night that Hecht was able to beat the rookie goaltender. His previous six attempts were all denied.

"We had some really good scoring chances in the second and third periods, but Fleury made some unbelievable saves," stated Hecht, who logged 24 shifts to lead all Buffalo forwards. "It was frustrating towards the end of the game."

Fleury made 38 saves in the loss but received some help from the posts and crossbars as six different Buffalo shots rang off the pipes according to Ruff.

"If you got points for hitting posts and crossbars, we would have won by a wide margin tonight," Ruff joked.

The most speculator near miss was rookie Thomas Vanek's wrist shot that deflected off the crossbar.

Heading into the offensive zone and being fronted by two defensemen, Vanek dumped the puck off the boards hard enough to allow himself time to skate around the pursuing defense and collect the rebound. The move is intended to give the Austrian a point-blank shot with little interference or resistance.

"Usually, it works out pretty well but in the end I hit the cross bar," said Vanek, who is still searching for his first career NHL goal. "It just doesn't want to go in."

Rookie Paul Gaustad tapped in his first career NHL goal at 10:26 of the second period to put the Sabres ahead 2-1, while Rory Fitzpatrick scored the first goal of the game at 3:21 of the first.

Ryan Miller made 26 saves to earn the win and moved to 3-1-0 on the season.

"It worked out this time," said Hecht. "Not pretty but it's a win."


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Period 1
1-0 (3:21): Mike Grier sails a cross-ice pass to a cutting Rory Fitzpatrick for the chip shot. The marker is the first of the season for Fitzpatrick and Grier's first assist. Grier received the puck from Taylor Pyatt after the Sabres' fore-check caused the Pittsburgh turnover in their own zone. Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury attempted in vain to the wide-open cage. Grier and Taylor Pyatt get the assists.

1-1 (6:35): Zigmund Palffy slaps in a loose rebound for his third goal of the season. Palffy won the draw back to Mark Recchi at the left face-off circle, who kicked the puck out to Sergei Gonchar for the slap shot from the left point. Recchi and Gonchar are credited with the assists.

Period 2
2-1 (10:26): Paul Gaustad records his first career goal as he flips the rebound off Toni Lydman's shot from the point over a sprawling Marc-Andre Fleury. Lydman is credited with his second assist of the season and Ales Kotalik gets his first.

2-2 (16:57): Mark Recchi snaps a wrist shot that beats Ryan Miller before the goaltender could get completely set against the left post. Sidney Crosby gets his first assist of the game and Palffy gets his second point with the second helper. Recchi now has two points (1+1) in the game.

Period 3
No Scoring

3-2 (4:39): Jochen Hecht hacks away at Fleury's skate and knocks in the puck to end the game. The assists go to Toni Lydman (his second of the game) and Tim Connolly (first point of the season). Sabres outshoot Pittsburgh 6/1 in the final period of play.
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