By DAVID DROSCHAK, AP Sports Writer
March 29, 2003
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- A season of ups-and-downs on the power play for the Buffalo Sabres is ending on a high note.
Miroslav Satan, Maxim Afinogenov and Daniel Briere scored power-play goals in a 7 1/2 -minute span as the Buffalo Sabres beat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1 Saturday night.
The Sabres, tied for 26th in the league with the man advantage, scored three power-play goals for the first time this season -- two on 5-on-3s in the first period -- and have scored at least one power-play goal in seven of eight games.
``The game really was a special-teams match and we took advantage of ours early and they didn't take advantage of theirs,'' Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said.
``We had some tough times with it at certain times this season, but right now it's working and winning us games,'' Satan said of the power play.
Buffalo won its season-best fourth in a row, while the Hurricanes are winless in seven (0-5-2) to remain in last place in the NHL with 61 points -- two behind Pittsburgh with four games remaining.
``We've made some changes and there's some good chemistry,'' Ruff said. ``There are guys having fun playing with each other. When you get on a little bit of a roll you want to stay on it.''
Carolina had an opportunity to get back into it early in the third with more than seven minutes of power-play time, but couldn't beat Mika Noronen, who stopped 39 shots to win his third game this season.
``Our power play wasn't very good,'' said Jeff O'Neill, who had a game-high nine shots. ``It essentially cost us the game.
``I thought 5-on-5 we worked hard and took the play to them the majority of the time, but when it goes bad it goes bad.''
The game between teams well out of the playoff picture drew a near-sellout crowd of 17,677.
Brad DeFauw gave Carolina a 1-0 lead midway through the first period before the Sabres scored twice over the final 6:50.
Satan tied it with his team-leading 25th after a questionable cross-checking call against Ryan Bayda and a roughing penalty behind the play to Bret Hedican. Satan then assisted on Afinogenov's fifth just 27 seconds into Buffalo's second 5-on-3.
``When you put the skill players they have out on a 5-on-3 they are almost certain to have quality chances,'' O'Neill said.
Briere gave the Sabres a 3-1 lead 34 seconds into the second as Sean Hill's first-period tripping penalty carried over. Briere beat Kevin Weekes, who is trying to play through a hand injury, with a high shot.
Meanwhile, the Sabres were short-handed in this one as defensemen Rhett Warrener and Brian Campbell were under observation in Buffalo after possibly being exposed to a mysterious and potentially deadly respiratory illness.
``There is very little concern, but we're trying to be as cautious as we can,'' Ruff said. ``We're erring on the side of `Let's make sure everything is OK.'''
Team spokesman Mike Gilbert said the decision to hold the players back from traveling to North Carolina was a precaution, and that neither has shown any signs of being infected with severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS.
``When we first heard about it last night there was a concern by everybody in the locker room,'' defenseman Jay McKee said. ``But we're all feeling pretty comfortable now.''
``Once they explained the situation to us it looks like we should be safeand that's a positive thing to hear,'' added Satan.
Satan has a five-game assist streak. ... Weekes was nominated for the Masterton Trophy by the Carolina chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication. ... Jeff Daniels earned his first assist in 20 games on DeFauw's goal. ... The Hurricanes havebeen outscored 75-43 in the first period.
Updated on Saturday, Mar 29, 2003 10:20 pm, EST
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