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Victory Slipped Away in Third

by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres
For the third consecutive game, the Buffalo Sabres were outplayed in the third period. And for the third consecutive game, victory slipped away in those precious 20 minutes.

Buffalo allowed three third-period goals to the New York Islanders on Saturday night and suffered a 5-3 loss at the Nassau Coliseum, an arena the Sabres hadn't lost in since February 21, 2004. Buffalo was riding a six-game winning streak on the island.

The loss drops Buffalo into its longest pointless drought of the season, as the team hasn't been able to add anything to its
Eastern-Conference leading 70 total points since January 19. After registering no less than 19 points in each of the first three months of the season, Buffalo has posted a record of 5-7-1 during January and is only 2-4-1 in their last seven games.

Jochen Hecht scored a pair of goals for Buffalo, tying a career-high that was set this season at Carolina on November 13. Hecht played the role of garbage collector as both goals came by cleaning up rebounds in front of Islanders netminder Rick DiPietro.

Hecht scored his first of the night by converting Daniel Briere's deflection into his 13th goal of the season and Buffalo's first of the game at 15:01 to tie the score 1-1. Just outisde the slot, Hecht backhanded a loose puck, which was created by Briere attempting to stuff Maxim Afinogenov's rebound past DiPietro, into a wide-open net to tie the game 1-1.

The Manheim, Germany-native again tied the game with his second goal five minutes into the second period. On Buffalo's first power play, Hecht simply slapped Nathan Paetsch's rebound on net and got a lucky bounce when his offering deflected twice, first off DiPietro's shoulder and then the right post, before slipping over the goal line.

Ryan Miller took his second straight loss, stopping 26-of-31 shots.

Trent Hunter scored the first goal of the game after collecting a loose puck in the neutral zone and flipping a backhander past Miller following some nice moves in the offensive zone to register is 11th goal of the season at 7:42 of the first.

Hecht evened the score late in the first before Aaron Asham regained the New York lead with his eighth of the season just three minutes into the second to make the score 2-1.

Once again, Hecht evened the score, but this time on the power play, which finished the game one for four.

Daniel Paille laid a perfect pass on the tape of Ales Kotalik's stick for the easy deflection and Buffalo's first lead of the game at 12:25 of the second. Cutting down the slot, Kotalik redirected the feed from the bottom of the left face-off circle into the top-right corner of the net to record his 14th goal of the season and 33rd point.

Asham's 50-foot slapshot from the blueline deflected off Jaroslav Spacek and slipped between Miller's body and right arm to tie the game 3-3 at 6:53 of the third.

Off a Toni-Lydman turnover, the Islanders took the 4-3 lead with just over three minutes remaining in regulation. Randy Robitaille trapped Lydman's clearing attempt along the boards and fired a quick wristshot on net that Miller never saw to register his eighth goal of the season.

Andy Hilbert one-timed Hunter's pass from behind the net to expand the Islanders lead to a pair of goals with just 54 clicks left on the clock.
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