Wednesday's game between the Buffalo Sabres and Dallas Stars seemed almost destined to be decided by the team that could capitalize on a break.
The deciding lucky bounce came after more than 44 minutes of scoreless hockey. Benoit Hogue of the Stars caromed a puck off Buffalo goalie Dominik Hasek and into the net forthe first goal of the night. It proved to be the game-winner, as the Stars went on to a 2-0 victory before 15,273 at the Dr Pepper StarCenter.
The loss was Buffalo's second in a row and dropped the team's record back below .500 (5-6).
The night's first goal came with Dallas on the power play. The Stars' man-advantage unit had only scored three goals this season and didn't look sharp in three previous tries Wednesday night. This time, however, Dallas moved the puck crisply.
Brent Gilchrist fed ex-Sabre Hogue behind the Buffalo end line to Hasek's left. Hogue saw Pat Verbeek standing near the crease to Hasek's right.
"On that power play, we moved the puck well," Hogue said. "I tried to bring it across to Pat -- he was open -- and it hit a skate or something and went in."
Hogue's fourth goal may have come out of nowhere, but it gave a big lift to the Stars. They controlled the next few minutes of play and the pressure paid off with a well-executed attack into the Buffalo zone.
Sergei Zubov of the Stars had just crossed his own blue line when he hit teammate Mike Modano with a pass just before Modano crossed the Buffalo blue line. Modano shoveled a pass to Greg Adams, who was skating down left wing. Adams' 30-footer was exactly where it needed to be, finding the small space between Hasek and the far goal post.
The two plays -- one a little lucky, one very skillful -- were enough to hand the Sabres the loss.
"In the third period, they got the big goal on the power play, and then Adams placed that puck perfectly," Buffalo coach Ted Nolan summarized. "It was one of those games. We're a young team, and we have to learn from it."
Until the decisive outburst by the Stars, the game was dominated by goaltenders. Hasek and Dallas' Andy Moog were both perfect in the nets. Hasek was tested more in the first period, as the Stars had a 12-3 advantage in shots. Buffalo didn't even get a shot on goal in the final 10 minutes of the period.
But the Sabres had a strong second period with several odd-man rushes and some good scoring chances. Matthew Barnaby had a couple of shots from close range, but couldn't beat Moog.
"I did have a couple of good chances," Barnaby said. "I should have buried them. I've got to learn how to bury those. You don't get those chances every night."
Once Moog made the initial stop of shots, the Stars often didn't let the Sabres follow up.
"What they don't do is they don't give up a lot of second shots," center Derek Plante said. "That's where you get a lot of your goals, unless you're lucky to beat a goalie clean."
By the end of the second period, it was obvious that Moog and Hasek weren't about to give up anything easy. Buffalo almost got a break in the first two minutes of the third when a shot into the Dallas zone took a strange bounce and caught Moog behind the net.
Brian Holzinger caught up to the puck in the face-off circle and let a shot go as soon as he could, but Moog had just enough time to be back in position to make the save.
"He made a good effort to get back," Holzinger said. "It was a lucky bounce for us off the boards. He recovered pretty well, and I just tried to get the shot on net. It was a key situation. It was the way the night was going for us."
It was the Stars' ninth win in 11 starts.
The Sabres fly to St. Louis, the next stop in a four-city road trip, for a game Friday night.