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Sabres' offense disconnected Power play hung up while Thrashers roll

Scott Arniel jokingly said that if anything went wrong during Monday's Buffalo Sabres game, he could pull out a cell phone on the bench and coach Lindy Ruff could yell at his players from home.

They would have needed a cell phone plan with unlimited minutes.

The Sabres, without their head coach while he was attending to medical matters with his daughter Madeleine, were blown away for the second straight game Monday. They dropped a 5-0 decision to the Atlanta Thrashers, leaving Philips Arena with consecutive losses in regulation for the first time since Jan. 21.

"[That's] two games in a row that we came out, didn't work hard enough, paid the price and we got what we deserved," defenseman Brian Campbell said.

The Sabres' offense, as in Saturday's 4-2 loss to Ottawa, again was non-existent for the opening 40 minutes. The Sabres generated just eight shots through the first two periods, finishing with 20. The Thrashers had 20 shots after two periods and 23 for the game.

"We didn't get pucks to the net," assistant coach Brian McCutcheon said. "We talked about trying to use our speed and we weren't generating a whole lot of offense, we weren't using our speed."

The Sabres entered the game with the second-ranked power-play unit, but it sputtered early and often to set the tone. The Sabres went 0 for 5 on the power play in the first period, taking only three shots. They finished 0 for 6 for the game, while the Thrashers capitalized twice on 10 chances.

"It's been a negative energy builder for us," Arniel said. "It's been good all year and we're going to have to find a way to rectify it."

Sabres goalie Martin Biron had an outing to forget. He stopped just 18 shots. The first and fifth goals went off his glove and pad, respectively, before trickling in, and he juggled a shot on the second goal to allow a rebound to be converted.
"I made some bad decisions out there," Biron said. "Pucks were leaking a little bit through me, and bad rebounds."

Kari Lehtonen earned his third career shutout and has won nine of his past 12 starts.

Despite their power-play chances, the Sabres were in a 2-0 hole after the opening period. Biron couldn't grab Ilya Kovalchuk's career-high 43rd goal on a slap shot from the circle with 4:13 to play. In the closing seconds, Andy Sutton kept the puck in at the blue line and took a high shot that Biron juggled. Peter Bondra slapped the deflection through Biron's leg with 28.1 ticks left.

The Thrashers poured it on in the second period, leaving the ice with a 5-0 lead and a standing ovation from the announced crowd of 14,133.

Vyacheslav Kozlov, who's been a Sabres tormentor since being traded by Buffalo in 2002, made it 3-0 about eight minutes into the period. Steve McCarthy and Jaroslav Modry added power-play goals 1:54 apart midway through the second period.

The Thrashers entered the game with the league's sixth-ranked power play.

The Sabres have 15 games remaining before the playoffs. They returned home after Monday's game and take on the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday in HSBC Arena. The Hurricanes are second in the Eastern Conference, while the Sabres are fourth.

"The next four games are huge for us," co-captain Chris Drury said. "We'll see what we're made of the rest of this week and early into next week."

e-mail: jvogl@buffnews.com

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