April 16, 2007
by Brian Wheeler
The highest scoring team in league in the regular season received the production that it has come to expect from its depth.
Adam Mair, Thomas Vanek
and Daniel Briere each recorded their first goals of the post-season as the Sabres fought their way to a 3-2 victory in Game Three. Buffalo leads the best-of-seven series, two games to one.
"Our secret all year long, and its not really a secret but our strength, has been our strength of scoring," said head coach Lindy Ruff. "That strength of scoring through all the lines is something that has kept teams on their heals because we can get rolling and it can come from any line at any time."
No other forward other than Chris Drury had scored a goal since the Sabres co-captain had beat Mike Dubielewicz at 1:08 of the third in Game One. Defensemen Brian Campbell (2), Dmitri Kalinin and Toni Lydman were the only other players without a zero under the statistical category entitled "G" entering the contest.
"Our speed and our passing was good," said Ruff. "We hit holes and got people behind the defense. We generated the type of opportunities that we thought we could generate, but at the same time, their goalie played well and made some good saves."
Twice in the second period, Buffalo opened up a two-goal lead. The Islanders countered each time with goals from Trent Hunter and Ryan Smyth to keep within striking distance.
"It was a heck of a battle," said Ruff. "It was a two-goal game and then its a one-goal game, then it was a two-goal game again. Then we made a pretty big mistake at the end of the period to give them an opportunity to get close."
With just seven seconds remaining in the second, Ryan Smyth slammed home a pass from behind the goal line by Randy Robitaille, after the forward had intercepted Lydman's clearing feed along the boards, to bring New York within a goal at 3-2.
The goal could have been a spring board for New York to launch off, but the ground came out from under their skates in the third.
Protecting the one-goal lead, Buffalo cut all New York's momentum with a stingy presence along the blueline and a potent attack. The Sabres allowed just two shots on goal in the final frame, while peppering netminder Rick DiPietro with 17.
"That second goal was tough, but we bounced back from it," said Tallinder. "I think we controlled the [third] period pretty well.
"We knew in the locker room that we had to come out stronger in the third to shut them down."
Buffalo's penalty kill has held the Islander's power play scoreless in nine of their ten opportunities in the opening three games of the series.
"We played sound defensively, and as the game went on, we got better," said Ruff.
Drury slung a perfect across-ice pass onto the tape of Mair's stick for the easy redirection and 1-0 Sabres lead at 5:17 of the second.
The only other time that Mair had lit the lamp during the playoffs came when he scored his first career goal, regular season or playoffs, in Game Three of the second round for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
After a lengthy review, Vanek was awarded his first goal of the post-season and Buffalo was granted a 2-0 lead by the referees at 8:38.
Vanek's wraparound attempt, which deflected off DiPietro's left pad and then crossed the goal line before the netminder was able to slide it to safety with his stick, gave Vanek the third goal during his post-season career. He scored two goals in 10 games last season.
Hunter jammed a loose puck in front of Ryan Miller
between the goaltender's pads to record his second goal of the playoffs at 9:52 to make the score 2-1.
Miller turned away 20-of-22 shots.
With a two-man advantage, Briere received a criss-cross pass from Tim Connolly at the left post and scored his first goal of the playoffs to regain the two-goal lead for Buffalo.
Briere's wristshot was blocked by Brendan Witt, but the center snapped the bouncing deflection over a out-of-position Rick DiPietro to record his 11th post-season goal at 12:56 of the second.
The second assist gave Dainius Zubrus his team-leading fourth of the playoffs.
Game Four stays in Nassau Coliseum this Wednesday. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
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Quotes courtesy of WGR 550-AM, the official radio partner of the Buffalo Sabres.