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EARLY GOAL SOMEHOW STANDS UP FOR SABRES

Years from now, Sabres goalie Martin Biron will remember his shutout against the Ottawa Senators for all the wrong reasons. His recollection won't be about his 21 saves. It will be about everything else that happened Friday night.

The rookie took over the league lead with his fifth shutout this season, and James Patrick scored the only goal that counted in a 1-0 victory over Ottawa. The 18,690 fans left Marine Midland Arena wondering whether they were dreaming or the game they had just witnessed actually happened.

"There were goofy things that happened that are going to make the Plays of the Week -- or the Bloopers of the Week," Biron said. "But we'll take that 1-0 win any time."

It was weird.

Consider, off-ice officials negated three goals -- two by Buffalo and one by Ottawa. One never came close to crossing the goal line. The other two were overturned upon review. Biron misplayed one shot from Marian Hossa in the third period, only that didn't count because the Senators were offside. His best save came when he stacked his pads to stop former Sabre Joe Juneau during a two-on-one break in the middle period.

The Sabres scored in the first period, a first in eight games. More odd was that it was enough for them to win their second straight. Their strange but true season continues tonight in Boston (7 p.m., Empire, 104.1 FM).

"You have to win games any way you can," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "We're not going to score seven or eight goals every night. We're not going to score four or five. The norm has to be two or three."

It's one thing when a referee or linesman is injured during the course of a game, but a goal judge? Relief was summoned for Tony Caggiano late in the first period when he was showered with shattered glass after Rhett Warrener's slap shot deflected off a stick and went high over the net. Fortunately, it didn't hit the Jumbotron.

Caggiano attempted to duck for cover with the other innocent men, women and children in Section 111, but they were less effective than the Sabres' power play. Caggiano had stitches in his head and took a real shower before watching the rest of the game. The remaining 1:21 was added to the second period.

"I don't know how it broke the glass," Warrener said. "It certainly wasn't all my power."

If nothing else, Caggiano snapped to attention. He was too quick with the button early in the game after Brian Holzinger rang a shot off the post. Replays showed it never crossed the goal line, but few people watching live needed the replay for proof.

Goal Removal II came in the second period when Vaclav Varada deflected Patrick's shot between Patrick Lalime's pads with 7:28 remaining. Off-ice officials ruled he made incidental contact with Lalime and the Sabres held the 1-0 lead.

Goal Removal III came exactly one minute later when Senators winger Shawn McEachern scooted through the crease and flipped a loose puck into an open net. That was taken away because officials ruled Andreas Dackell batted the puck with a high stick a few seconds earlier.

"It's always tough to not give up a goal," Biron said. "When you look at the pressure they put on us throughout the game and everything that happened -- we had the goal disallowed, the broken glass, they had a goal disallowed -- it's tough to keep your focus."

Patrick opened the scoring at 2:37 when he blew a slap shot past Lalime and into the top corner while the goalie was screened by Senators defenseman Wade Redden.

Rookie Maxim Afinogenov made the play by controlling the puck through the Ottawa zone before kicking a pass to Jason Woolley, who sent a cross-ice feed to Patrick. Somehow, the goal held up. Looking back, perhaps nobody should have been surprised.

"Obviously, getting a goal that early in the game, you don't think it's going to stand up," Patrick said. "I heard there was some interference on the goalie. I usually don't score from there, so I probably needed a little help. Somehow, it found a way in."

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