April 12, 2007
By Brian Wheeler
The Buffalo Sabres were the most dangerous five-on-five team in the league during the regular season. Blessed with the depth to roll four solid lines, Buffalo was the lone team to light the lamp more than 300 times.
The Sabres Achillies heel had been the team's inability to maintain a high level of special teams play.
Unfortunately for the New York Islanders, Buffalo may have just added another weapon to their loaded arsenal. The Sabres scored a pair of power-play goals on six opportunities, missed adding a third by four seconds, while holding the Islanders scoreless on three man-advantage opportunities to take a 4-1 victory in Game One of the best-of-seven, opening-round series.
Game Two will stay in Buffalo this Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. before switching to the Island on Monday.
"It makes a huge difference for us to come out here and play a solid game and get the win," said defenseman Brian Campbell, who scored two goals and an assist. "You hopefully want to grab the wolf at home and then see what happens on Long Island."
Experience matters in playoff hockey, so it was no shock when Buffalo took Game One of their opening round series thanks in large part to their most seasoned playoff-performer.
The only member of the Sabres to win a Stanley Cup, Chris Drury scored two goals - the 36th and 37th of his post-season career - to help Buffalo gain a one-game-to-none series lead. His second period goal was Buffalo's first on the power-play this post-season, while his second of the night came moments after a penalty had expired.
"We just weren't holding on to it long and weren't letting them get setup," said Drury of the power play, which finished the regular season in the middle of the pack at 17th overall. "We have to either get it down low to the net or up high for the shot."
"In the playoffs, we definitely need those power plays," said center Derek Roy
. "You don't get many chances on the power play and sometimes that may decide whether you're going to win the game or not."
With his first career post-season goal, Campbell gave Buffalo the 1-0 lead midway through the first period.
On a three-on-two rush, Tim Connolly paused at the the top of the right face-off circle to sling an across-ice pass to Campbell, who rocketed the puck past Wade Dubielewicz at 9:30.
The feed was perfectly placed.
"He's talented," said Campbell of Connolly. "Just go out there at practice and watch him stickhandle and do what he does."
New York didn't challenge goaltender Ryan Miller
until the 16:01 mark of the first, marking the sixth instance in franchise history that Buffalo has held the opposition to just a single shot in a period. Miller finished with 20 saves.
"I thought five-on-five, we did ok," said Islanders head coach Ted Nolan. "We limited their opportunities. This is a very explosive hockey club and you have to be on your best defensive behavior at all times.
"We've just got to get better on special teams."
New York tied the game off a Roy turnover seven minutes into the second when the center got caught on a long shift.
Arron Asham one-timed Jason Blake's fed over Miller's right shoulder to make the score 1-1 at 6:58 after Blake picked Roy's crossing feed in New York's zone.
"It was disappointing, but Derek was the guy who had the puck when you went back down the ice," said head coach Lindy Ruff. "We just need a better decision there. After the length of that shift, the smarter play probably would have been to push it north/south."
Crashing the net on the power play, earned not only the Sabres first special teams score, but a 2-1 lead.
Drury chipped Campbell's rebound past Dubielewicz from the slot, after Andy Hilbert had blocked the defenseman's shot, to record his first goal of the post-season at 11:13 of the second.
The Sabres co-captain racked up the third most goals (nine) on the Sabres roster during last year's playoffs.
"Just because we were out shooting them, it didn't mean anything," said Drury. "You've got to put it in the net, keep scoring and keep going. Basically, in playoff hockey, no lead is safe."
Drury's second goal of the night came just seconds after Randy Robitaille left the penalty box and was recorded at even strength to give Buffalo a 3-1 lead.
Stationed on his off-wing, Drury slipped a one-timer just inside the left post. Dainius Zubrus notched his second assist of the night on the play with another precision, across-ice pass at 1:08 of the third.
Campbell ripped a one-timer from the point through traffic to give Buffalo their second power-play goal of the game at 16:35 of the third.
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