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SABRE POWER PLAY FAILS TO REACH GOAL

Goals aren't always met. Goals aren't always scored.

For the Buffalo Sabres, both thoughts are one in the same.

The Sabres on Thursday again failed to meet their goal of scoring three times and fell to the Toronto Maple Leafs, 3-1, in a preseason affair at the Air Canada Centre. Alexander Mogilny netted two goals and assisted on the other. Chris Gratton scored for Buffalo.

The Sabres outshot the Leafs, 26-20, but could not convert on six power plays. Five of the Sabres' chances came in the first two periods, and they totaled only three shots on those.

"The power play is something that's going to have to win you hockey games and generate opportunities," Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. "That falls on the backs of the key personnel. You keep putting your key players out there, they gotta produce. That's the likes of (Miroslav) Satan and (Slava) Kozlov and Gratton.

"You're concerned with the amount of missed opportunities (overall). There were some real good opportunities, even two-on-ones, where we didn't generate a shot. There was a four-on-two we didn't generate a shot."

Saturday night seemed like a distant memory. That's when the Sabres converted three of five power-play chances against the Columbus Blue Jackets and won, 4-3. It's the Sabres' only victory after four preseason games.

The Sabres play the Ottawa Senators tonight at 7 in the Corel Centre.

"We want to start shooting the puck a little more," Gratton said. "In this league, a lot of the goals are garbage goals, so to speak, whether they be tipped in or guys crashing the net and poking and rebounding. Those are the
goals we have to start looking for instead of looking for the pretty pass across ice."

Added power-play quarterback Alexei Zhitnik: "We have to try and start from simple as possible. First of all, you have to get the puck to the net. We had a couple of good chances, but if you have a chance you have to bear down."

The game started as a duel between Buffalo goaltender Martin Biron and Toronto's Curtis Joseph. It was a double shutout heading into the third period.

"The game was there for the taking," Ruff said. "We made a couple of mistakes, a couple careless giveaways in our own end, and they wound up scoring a few goals."

The Maple Leafs struck 1:19 into the third period, following a turnover by Sabres defenseman Brian Campbell in the Sabres' end. Mogilny skated toward Biron down the goal line and fed Shayne Corson inside the right circle.

The Maple Leafs went ahead, 2-0, nearly three minutes later. Mogilny's power-play goal came 19 seconds after James Patrick was penalized for cross-checking.

"The third period we played a little sloppy, and they made us pay for it," Gratton said.

Gratton's goal cut Toronto's lead in half with 10:37 to play. Slava Kozlov capitalized on Dmitri Kalinin's takeaway by passing to Gratton, who skated unabated toward Joseph and fired a shot from the slot.

But the Maple Leafs slammed the door on Mogilny's second goal, a laser beam from above the right circle with 4:16 left.

"For two periods it was great," Biron said. "I was aggressive. I was at the top of the crease all the time. The third period I got caught back deep on pretty much every goal."

Biron said it's too early to dwell on a preseason loss, regardless of the mistakes made.

"I wish we won them all," Biron said. "I wish we win them, 4-3, 5-2, 4-3. It certainly would feel good for the guys. But if you start the season the way we need to start the season, we won't look at the preseason."
e-mail: tgraham@buffnews.com

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