March 20, 2006
by Brian Wheeler
The Atlanta Thrashers did something only two teams in the National Hockey League had been able to accomplish this season. Atlanta road a 20-save performance by goaltender Kari Lehtonen on Monday night at the Philips Arena, as it became the third team to shutout the Buffalo Sabres 5-0.
"We didn't get pucks to the net," said assistant coach Brian McCutcheon, who along with Scott Arniel substituted for an absent Lindy Ruff. Ruff missed the game due to personal reasons. "We just didn't generate a lot of offense because we didn't use our speed."
Buffalo's offense was stagnant through much of the contest, firing a combined eight shots on goal in the first and second periods, and 13 in the third. The team lost all momentum early after failing to convert on three power plays in the opening 10 minutes of play.
"That's two games in a row that we didn't get anything from our power-play and it's been a negative energy builder for us," said Arniel. "The power-play was good all year and we're going to find a way to rectify it."
"We just didn't get anything going," said co-captain Chris Drury of the man-advantage unit. "We weren't handling the puck too well. When we did get a chance to make a pass, we weren't receiving them well and the puck was bouncing all over the place on us. We definitely weren't sharp."
The two other times Buffalo had been shutout this season also came by a score of 5-0, San Jose in HSBC Arena on Dec. 2 and at Ottawa on Oct. 8.
The beating against Atlanta coupled with Saturday night's 4-2 loss to Ottawa marked the first time the Sabres have failed to register points in back-to-back games in nearly two months. Not since the team's Western Conference road trip in mid-January had Buffalo lost two consecutive games during regulation.
"Ottawa was pretty desperate and these guys are playing for their playoff lives, so you need to match that emotion and work ethic," said Arniel. "That's probably been the biggest negative of this team in the first two periods of those games. We didn't match what our opposition was throwing at us."
"I don't know if it has been one thing specifically," said Drury of the team's struggles of late. "It's something that we're going to have to address. You can't give a team a head start in this league, especially on the road and down the stretch."
Netminder Martin Biron saw his unbeaten record during March came to an end. Biron won his previous three starts during the month, but took his seventh loss of the season after allowing five goals on 23 shots.
"We certainly have a group that will get (their winning form) back," said McCutcheon. "There is a lot of pride in that room and they understand we didn't play well against Ottawa or tonight. I think that pride factor will allow us to bring that desperation back."
After more than 15 minutes of scoreless play, Ilya Kovalchuk received a drop pass from Marc Savard at the top of the left faceoff circle and snapped a wristshot that trickled between the pads of Biron to give Atlanta the 1-0 lead.
Following a Biron miscue on Andy Sutton's high shot from the right point, Peter Bondra collected the loose puck and fired between the netminder's legs for his 17th goal of the season and a 2-0 Atlanta lead at 19:31.
Vyacheslav Kozlov received a long pass from Bondra, raced into the Buffalo zone and snapped a hard wristshot over Biron's glove into the top right corner of the net for his 20th goal of the season at 7:57.
With a pair of power-play goals to finish the second, Atlanta took a 5-0 lead heading into the second intermission.
Steve McCarthy's slapshot from the left wing deflects off Toni Lydman's stick into the top left corner of the net at 11:53.
With traffic shielding Biron, Jaroslav Modry's slapshot from the left point hit the netminder's leg arm and trickled over the goal line to expand Atlanta's lead to five at 13:47.
---------------------------------------------- SCORING REPORTS
| Super Stats
| Faceoff Comp
| Play By Play
| Shift Chart GAME BLOG:
0-1 (15:47): Ilya Kovalchuk received a drop pass from Marc Savard at the top of the left faceoff circle and snapped a wristshot that trickled between the pads of Martin Biron to give Atlanta the lead. Savard records the primary assist, while Ronald Petrovicky gets the secondary.
0-2 (19:31): With just 29 seconds remaining in the first, Martin Biron misplays Andy Sutton's high shot and allowed a rebound to the front of the net. Peter Bondra collected the loose puck and fired between Biron's legs for his 17th goal of the season. Sutton gets the lone helper. Period 2
0-3 (7:57): Vyacheslav Kozlov received a long pass from Peter Bondra, raced into the Buffalo zone and snapped a hard wristshot over Martin Biron's glove into the top right corner of the net. The goal is Kozlov's 20th of the season. Bondra and Andy Sutton record the assists.
0-4 (11:53): Steve McCarthy's slapshot from the left wing deflects off Toni Lydman's stick over the left shoulder of Martin Biron. The power-play goal is McCarthy's third of the season. Vyacheslav Kozlov and Ilya Kovalchuk get the helpers.
0-5 (13:47): With traffic shielding Martin Biron, Jaroslav Modry's slapshot from the left point hit the netminder's leg arm and trickled over the goal line for Atlanta's second power-play goal of the night. Bobby Holik and Jim Slater get the helpers.
Quotes courtesy of WGR 550-AM, the official radio station of the Buffalo Sabres.