The Buffalo Sabres brought the NHL's newest team back to reality.
Maxim Afinogenov scored two goals and assisted on another as the Buffalo Sabres beat Atlanta 4-0 on Friday night, the first career shutout for rookie goalie Martin Biron.
A week into the season, the expansion Thrashers tied Buffalo 5-5 and knocked out Dominik Hasek during the high-scoring game. With Hasek on the injured list, Biron and the Sabres looked more like the team that reached the Stanley Cup finals last season.
Biron's teammates made things easier, limiting the Thrashers to 18 shots and only a handful of quality chances. Buffalo had 29 shots.
"The team we were playing can make you look like that," said Thrashers coach Curt Fraser, whose team was shut out for the second time in 17 games. "They're very good defensively and tough with their skill and speed."
The Sabres snapped a three-game losing streak, taking control with two goals 21 seconds apart early in the second period. The Thrashers lost for the fifth time in six games and watched rookie center Patrik Stefan crumple to the ice with another head injury.
The NHL's No. 1 pick went down with a minor concussion in the first period, following at least two concussions in the minor leagues. While his status was listed as day to day, Stefan will definitely miss Saturday night's game in Buffalo.
"We knew guys would take shots at him," Fraser said. "We knew one of the days he would get caught. Hopefully, he will rebound from this very quickly."
The Sabres dominated the hard-hitting game, outshooting the Thrashers 10-1 in the opening period before finaly breaking through in the second against Scott Langkow, Atlanta's third-string goalie.
Michael Peca scored his fifth goal of the year 57 seconds into the period. With the Sabres on a power play, he beat Langkow on the stick side with a shot through a screen from about 10 feet inside the blue line.
Twenty-one seconds later, Afinogenov pounced on a loose puck along the boards, skated into the faceoff circle to the left of Langkow and scored his third of the season on the glove side.
Curtis Brown scored his eighth goal at 10:50 of the second, taking a pass from Afinogenov at the side of the net and flipping a shot past Langkow while Ray Ferraro knocked the Buffalo scorer to the ice.
"I'd like to have that third one back," Langkow said. "It was kind of a back breaker. But I felt pretty good out there tonight."
The Thrashers, looking to gain some momentum for the return match in Buffalo, pulled Langkow with 2 1/2 minutes remaining, hoping to break the shutout. But Afinogenov ruined the strategy with his second goal of the game, an empty-netter.
Langkow got the start with No. 1 goalie Damian Rhodes bothered by a sore ankle. Backup Norm Maracle has been on the injured list since Nov. 1.
"When I first got up here, I heard five days," said Langkow, who has been with the team for nearly three weeks. "As long as they need me, I'll be ready to go."
There were 11 penalties in the opening period, including a spirited brawl between heavyweights Matt Johnson of Atlanta and Buffalo's Rob Ray.
Stefan apparently sustained his concussion as a result of two hard but legal blows on consecutive shifts. First, skating with his head down along the boards, he was taken out by Jay McKee. Then, while trying to slip by Richard Smehlik at the Buffalo blue line, Stefan seemed to take a forearm to the side of the head.
The 19-year-old center remained on the ice for several minutes before being helped to the locker room, clearly dazed. An MRI exam will be performed Saturday as a precaution.
Fraser said he thought both hits on Stefan were legal.
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