Early mistake starts Caps to 3-1 loss

Sabres' Satan intercepts bouncer in 1st, scores to tie it, deflate Washington


December 28, 2003|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - Buffalo's Miroslav Satan saw Washington Capitals goalie Olie Kolzig leave the net and go after the loose puck behind and to the left of the goal and decided to follow him.

"I knew what he was going to do," Satan said. "I knew he'd send it around behind the net, but I didn't expect him to misfire on it. I thought he'd send it round along the boards. That's when I got lucky."

Satan intercepted the bouncing puck intended for Caps defenseman Joel Kwiatkowski, swung around to the front of the net and tucked it in.

The first-period goal wasn't the game-winner, but it was the one that changed the flow of the game and eventually led to Buffalo's 3-1 victory.

"That first goal was something we didn't expect," added Satan, who tied the game at 1 and later assisted on both the game-winner by Daniel Briere in the third period and an empty-net insurance goal by Jochen Hecht. "It gave us a chance to start over again and we took it."

When these teams met a month ago, Buffalo was challenging for the top spot in the Northeast Division and beat the Caps, who were trying to dig their way out of the NHL cellar, 5-2.

Since then, the Sabres have had a bad patch, winning only twice before last night since that Nov. 26 game - going 1-7-1 in their past eight.

Washington changed coaches and is now playing .500 hockey (3-3-2-1) under Glen Hanlon, but is still struggling to distance itself from the NHL basement.

The Caps will now have lots of opportunities to pile up points as they begin a 40-day, 20-game run at MCI Center beginning tomorrow night against Boston.

Washington started strong last night. Peter Bondra, who scored the last goal in the Caps' 3-2 victory over Montreal on Tuesday, picked up where he left off.

With 7:55 gone in the opening period, he split two defenders and swung for the net, beating Buffalo goalie Mika Noronen (21 saves) for a 1-0 lead that lasted until the 3:13 mark, when Kolzig (37 saves) decided to try and help his team with the puck behind the net.

"Olie is pretty good at setting up the puck for the D," said Kwiatkowski, who was on his way to get the puck when he saw Kolzig had it. "I peeled off and he tried to send the puck to me, but it just bounced wrong."

Mike Grier, who assisted on Bondra's goal, acknowledged that play gave the Sabres "some momentum" but added, "We should have been able to bounce back and win the game."

Hanlon thought so, too, but noted the middle period in which neither team could generate much of anything - especially the Caps, who were outshot in the period, 10-2 - took a toll.

"It's in that part of the game where mental strength comes in," Hanlon said. "If your mind is going to wander, that's where it happens and things we don't want to be guilty of start to sneak in."

One of those was a lack of shots. "Shooting," Hanlon said, "has to be one of our strengths."

But the Sabres blocked the Caps' shooting lanes and also did a nice job of keeping Washington's power play, the second best in the NHL, off the ice for all but two minutes.

Buffalo 1 0 2 - 3

Washington 1 0 0 - 1

First period - 1, Washington, Bondra 15 (Grier, Doig), 7:55. 2, Buffalo, Satan 10, 16:47. Penalties - None. Second period - None. Penalties - None. Third period - 3, Buffalo, Briere 11 (Satan, Mair), 4:19. 4, Buffalo, Hecht 3 (Satan, Briere), 19:20 (en). Penalties - Fitzpatrick, Buf (slashing), 12:13; Jagr, Was (cross-checking), 12:13; Kotalik, Buf (tripping), 14:40. Shots on goal - Buffalo 13-10-17-40. Washington 9-2-11-22. Power-play opportunities - Buffalo 0 of 0; Washington 0 of 1. Goalies - Buffalo, Noronen 8-8-1 (22 shots-21 saves). Washington, Kolzig 9-20-2 (39-37). A - 14,548 (18,277). T - 2:12. Referees-Ian Walsh, Paul Devorski. Linesmen-Stephane Provost, Mark Pare.

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