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POWER PLAY FAILS AGAIN, LEAVES SABRES FIT TO BE TIED

They couldn't blame the ice. They couldn't blame the refs. They couldn't blame the goaltending. They couldn't blame bad luck. So that leaves, well, themselves.

The Sabres reached another low point in a season dotted with them Saturday night when they left Nassau Coliseum with a 2-2 tie before 7,997 fans who watched the worst team in the league, the Islanders, outplay the Eastern Conference champions, the Sabres.

The idea for Buffalo after the loss to Florida a night earlier was to cruise into Nassau Coliseum and do what every other team does: Win the game, keep everybody healthy and think about their next destination. Winning on Long Island has been easy for everyone -- except for the Islanders.

The game was ugly from every Buffalo angle. The power play stunk again. The Sabres generated very little offense and gave up too much defensively. They surrendered a breakaway in overtime that ended with Vladimir Orszagh fanning on a wrist shot.

The Islanders were supposedly filled with misfits and nobodies and had a seven-game home losing streak.

But it seems the Sabres can make anyone look good the way they've been playing lately.

Take Islanders winger Niklas Andersson. The guy has spent the most of the last two seasons in the minors. He was in the International Hockey League this season before being recalled by Butch Goring on Friday to shake up the lineup. He had one goal and set up another.

Curtis Brown and Jason Woolley scored for the Sabres, who took another oh-fer on the power play. It was seven opportunities, including a five-on-three, Saturday night. They have scored one goal with the man advantage in their last 47 opportunities and are currently the league's worst unit.

"Ive never seen us miss the net so much. That hurts you. The power play cost us the game again," said Sabres coach Lindy Ruff.

"Everybody knows it (Buffalo's lack of scoring) but we're still not doing it," said Miroslav Satan. "If we want to make the playoffs we have to win games like this."

"It's frustrating," said Michal Grosek. "We came to win the hockey game and we didn't. I don't understand it; everybody should take responsibility."

Tim Connolly, an 18-year-old rookie, tied the game with just more than 13 minutes remaining in the third period when he took a pass from Andersson and lifted a wrist shot over fallen goaltender Dwayne Roloson.

Woolley can thank Felix Potvin for his second goal in two games after he gave the Sabres a 2-1 lead in the closing minute of the second period. It has been goals like this one that have pushed Potvin into a backup role.

Woolley was taking a blind shot on a loose puck after it bounced off the side boards. It had no business doing any damage other than being swallowed up by Potvin's pads. Instead, the low drive went through his legs with 33 seconds remaining.

The Sabres power play woes continued. They had a five-on-three advantage for 1:09 in the second period and were outshot, 2-1. The longer it seemed they allowed the Islanders to remain in the game, the harder New York played.

"It doesn't matter who you have," said Roloson. "What matters is how hard you work. You can't take anything away from them. They played hard."

Brown broke a nine-game scoring slump when he opened the scoring in the first period after a good pass from Satan. Satan picked the puck off the boards and found Brown going through the middle moments after jumping out of the penalty box. Potvin was able to get a piece of Brown's shot before it trickled into the net 6:36 into the period.

Andersson tied the game about 4 1/2 minutes later after the Sabres were unable to control two rebounds in front of the net. Andersson converted on the second attempt for his first NHL goal since April 5, 1997.

About 4,000 people attended the game, regardless of what the Islanders announced.

The Sabres generated little offense in the first 20 minutes and were mostly outplayed. Roloson needed to make several good saves, including one in which he stopped Andersson on a breakaway.

The Sabres had a brief scare in the first three minutes when rookie Maxim Afinogenov was knocked silly by Islanders defenseman Eric Cairns. Afinogenov was moving out of the Buffalo zone and was just lifting his head when he was greeted by Cairns' left elbow. He was motionless on the ice for several moments before going back to the bench. He did not miss a shift.

Buffalo's best scoring chance came with about 8 1/2 minutes left in the period when Grosek grabbed a loose puck and was stopped by Potvin after ripping a wrist shot toward the top half of the net.

Afinogenov had an open net less than a minute later, but the blade broke away from his stick while attempting to bury a one-timer from the top of the right circle.

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