The new year is always a cause for immense celebration in the Soviet Union.
Maybe that's why Alexander Mogilny was able to light up Memorial Auditorium Monday night.
Wringing out the old year in impressive style, Mogilny, one of the oft-criticized non-contributors on the Sabres this season, had two goals and two assists in leading the team to a 5-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers in front of a sellout crowd of 16,325.
The one-sided triumph put some new life into an otherwise "old hat" year and allowed the Sabres to exit 1990 with their longest unbeaten streak of the season (3-0-2). It hasn't been a pretty streak mind you. All the wins have come at home and two of the three have come against teams that are below .500 in the standings and the two ties came about largely because of superior goaltending, but this is not the time for carping about what should have been. Suffice to say the Sabres left 1990 looking like winners and they did it largely because they wanted to.
Buffalo set the tone almost from the opening faceoff and seldom took a backward step. In adition to Mogilny's four points, the Sabres got goals out of Dale Hawerchuk, Grant Ledyard and Pierre Turgeon. Rick Tocchet and Murray Craven scored for Philadelphia, but they just made things close. Buffalo led, 2-0, before Tocchet scored and by 3-1 before Craven got one.
Mogilny had three of his four points when the game was a contest. Buffalo led, 3-1, going into the third period. Ledyard made the score 4-1 and, after Craven scored a power-play goal, Turgeon pushed it to 5-2.
Mogilny was the catalyst on Turgeon's goal. Skating with the puck on a three-on-one break, he passed off on a chance for his first career hat trick and put the puck right on Turgeon's stick inches from the goal crease. The struggling center needed only to change the puck's direction to net his 15th goal of the season and first since the blowout win vs. Quebec that started the streak Dec. 23.
The three stars went to Mogilny, Craven and Ledyard, respectively. Daren Puppa was in goal for Buffalo and stopped 29 of 31 shots. Buffalo managed 30 on Ron Hextall and outshot the Flyers, 14-9, over the final 20 minutes.
Playing with the all-important lead (the Sabres are 10-6-4 when they score first, 0-12-3 when they trail after two periods) proved to be to Buffalo's advantage again.
Mogilny's first goal came early in the first period with the teams skating at equal strength. Ron Sutter overskated the puck in the faceoff circle to Hextall's left and Mogilny pounced on it. His quick snap shot beat Hextall low through the pads from about 12 feet away.
Buffalo moved to a 2-0 lead when Hawerchuk brought home the rebound of a shot by Mogilny. The Sabres had just finished off a power-play opportunity and still had an odd line on the ice. Dave Andreychuk worked the puck to Mogilny who took a shot from just outside the crease. Hextall forced it wide, but Hawerchuk had moved behind the defense. The puck was deep along the side of the net when Hawerchuk retrieved it, kicked it up onto his stick and reached around the post to lift it up over a falling Hextall. The goal was Hawerchuk's 11th of the season and third in two games. He had a two-goal outing Saturday at New Jersey.
Philadelphia got on the board early in the second period when Tocchet punched home a goal at 1:05. The right winger dove into the crease and literally punched the loose puck home with a fist-stick effort that drew mild protests from the crowd, but no argument from referee Don Koharski.
Philly pressed for a game-tying goal much of the rest of the way, but a miscue in its own end led to Buffalo taking a 3-1 lead. The Flyers were a tad to casual in exiting the zone and Turgeon took advantage, chipping the puck off the stick of Murray Baron just inside the blue line. The puck went directly to Mogilny, who spun around, made a move to the outside and then fired the puck back through Hextall's legs. The two goals were Mogilny's first since the 8-3 loss at Detroit Dec. 11. Mogilny missed three games in the nine-game span with a head injury.
Buffalo had a slight edge in shots in the first period (9-7), but the Flyers were much stronger in the second (16-7).
The Sabres scratched defensemen Doug Bodger and forwards John Tucker and Jiri Sejba. Bodger and Curran are both said to be caring for injured shoulders. The two skated at the morning workout before being scratched from the lineup. Sejba has not dressed since Dec. 16.
The Flyers scratched goaltender Pete Peeters, defensemen Mark Howe, Jeff Chychrun and Scott Sandelin and forwards Pelle Eklund and Derrick Smith. The Flyers dressed former Sabres Dave Fenyves and Norm Lacombe. Fenyves, a long-time star for the Rochester Americans, was recalled from Hershey in the AHL Dec. 13. Fenyves came to the game having one goal and an assist in nine games with the Flyers this season. Lacombe, a former first-round pick, came to the game with five goals and six assists in 41 games and had a three-point night (one goal, two assists) Nov. 1.
Monday's game was part of a string of six games at home in 13 nights. The Sabres have already played host to Quebec, Boston and Chicago and will meet the New York Islanders Wednesday and the Winnipeg Jets Friday. The next road game is Jan. 8 at Vancouver.