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Sabres Stalk Predators

by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres
All the Buffalo Sabres needed to snap out of the team's first losing streak was a plane ticket out of Buffalo. Having lost consecutive games in HSBC Arena, the best road team in the National Hockey League returned to its dominating form in the opening game of a two-night stretch against the Western Conference.

Buffalo routed the Nashville Predators 7-2 in the Gaylord Entertainment Center on Thursday night, out muscling the Central Divisions top team for three periods. The Sabres will conclude their West-Coast swing on Saturday night in St. Louis (MSG, WGR 550-AM, 8 p.m.).

"This team has a real will to win," said defenseman Toni Lydman. "Everyone was unsatisfied with two straight loses, so we wanted to come to Nashville and get a good start."

For two days, Sabres players and coaches had been reciting the same speech. Every team goes through adversity. Sometimes the bounces don't go your way.

Well, Buffalo rediscovered their scoring touch against Nashville and pucks that had been soaring wide of the net were hitting twine. A total of four different Sabres recorded goals and 12 registered points, as Buffalo improved to an Eastern Conference best 28-7-2. Ales Kotalik, Jason Pominville and Maxim Afinogenov each fell just short of a hat trick with two goals apiece.

Martin Biron recorded his eighth victory in his 10th start this season by stopping 29-of-31 Nashville shots.

The game turned ugly as Scott Nichol took a Todd Bertuzzi-type, cheap shot on Jaroslav Spacek after the defenseman took him out of the play. Nichol crashed into the net and immediately jumped to his feet and struck Spacek with a right hook when he was looking away.

"I'm pretty sure the league will deal with it," said Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff. "I've already said that we don't need that in the game and I'll let the league handle it."

Ruff stated following the game that x-rays on Spacek's jaw were negative and his outlook was positive.

"I think he's going to be alright," said Ruff. "We're just going to see how he does the rest of the night and we'll reevaluate tomorrow."

Snapping a 13-game goal drought with a goal 34 seconds into play on Tuesday night, Kotalik gave Buffalo the 1-0 lead in the opening half-minute of play for the second consecutive game. Gliding towards the blueline through the slot, Kotalik redirected Brian Campbell's wristshot from the point to register his eighth goal of the season at 0:33 of the first.

The man that took JP Dumont's position on the Sabres top line recorded Buffalo's second goal and his 14th of the season with a one-timer along the goal line.

Curling back to the net after Spacek corralled a Nashville clearing attempt, Pominville fired Daniel Briere's pass from behind the net shortside on Chris Mason to give Buffalo the 2-0 lead at 5:43.

On a two-on-one rush, Martin Erat one-timed David Legwand's across-ice pass into a wide-open net to record Nashville's fifth shorthanded goal of the season at 8:57 of the first.

Buffalo's offense exploded in the second period, out shooting the Predators 16-7 on their way to three unanswered goals.

Lydman one-timed his own rebound off the backboards into the top-right corner of the net to record his first goal in 94 regular season contests and gave Buffalo the 3-1 lead five minutes into the middle frame.

"You need a lot of luck to score if you have hands like mine," joke Lydman. "I just closed my eyes and hammered [the rebound]."

With back-to-back goals just two minutes apart, Afinogenov gave the Sabres a commanding 5-1 lead heading into the second intermission.

Afinogenov scored his 15th goal of the season at 15:18 by cutting wide around Dan Hamhuis and slipping the puck just inside the left post with a one-handed shot. His 16th came with a blistering one-timer off Derek Roy's across-ice feed into the top-right corner of the net at 17:45.

Jason Arnott scored with a wristshot from the left wing on the power play at 3:02 of the third period to cut the Sabres lead to three goals.

Buffalo scored a pair of power play goals to make the score 7-2 after a vicious attack by Scott Nichol on Jaroslav Spacek.

Kotalik ripped a one-timer into the top-right corner of the net for his second goal of the game, ninth of the season and second with the man advantage at 17:03.

Trailing an odd-man rush, Pominville one-timed Daniel Briere's drop pass into the top-right corner of the net for his second goal of the night, 15th of the season and second with the man advantage at 17:28.
Game Summary | Super Stats | Face-offs | Play-by-Play | Shift Chart
Quotes courtesy of WGR 550-AM, the official radio partner of the Buffalo Sabres.
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