SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) -- Mika Noronen was happy about getting his
first career shutout. Considering the season he's had, just getting
a victory was reason enough to celebrate.
"It's been a while," Noronen said after making 29 saves in
Buffalo's 4-0 victory over Florida on Saturday night. "It's been
almost a year since my last win. I'm really happy about that."
Noronen, 1-7-1 this season, was making only his second start
since being recalled from the minors Feb. 22. His last victory came
March 24, 2002, when the Sabres beat Ottawa 3-2 in overtime.
"I'm happy for Mika," Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. "It's
been an emotional struggle for him. It's been a physical battle to
be ready to play on limited time.
"I think the mental part of it is just being sent down and
playing down there again where he had a hard time dealing with
that. It's great to see him come back up and play the way he's
played in the two games he's played."
It also was a big night for Ruff, who tied Scott Bowman as the
winningest coach in Buffalo history with 210 victories.
"I would have hoped it would have happened a lot sooner this
season," Ruff said.
Defenseman Brian Campbell and rookie Ales Kotalik also scored
for the Sabres, who have won consecutive games for the first time
since Jan. 11 and 14. The Sabres beat Toronto on Thursday night.
"We're running a good stretch right now," Hecht said. "We're
winning a lot of games and playing really well. It's nice to have
fun when we go out and play the game."
Jani Hurme made 21 saves for Florida, 0-6-2-1 in its last nine
The Panthers began the day in 11th place in the Eastern
Conference, eight points out of eighth place. Florida was coming
off a 2-1 victory at Atlanta on Friday night.
"That's no excuse," All-Star center Olli Jokinen said.
"That's the schedule, everybody has to play back-to-back games. We
just have to have our legs ready early in the game. We should be
the team that was ready. It seems to be the other way around
Barnes made it 2-0 at 9:56 of the second period. Florida
defenseman Andreas Lilja broke his stick when he took a slap shot
after crossing the blue line and headed to the bench to get a new
stick. In the meantime, Buffalo defenseman Rhett Warriner cleared
the rebound toward the neutral zone and found Barnes, who had
gotten behind Lilja. Coming down on a two-on-one, Barnes fired a
slap shot that beat Hurme on the short side.
"We took advantage of a break," Ruff said.
Hecht made it 3-0 on a power play when he found himself alone to
the left of Hurme and put a wrist shot between the goalie's pads
and the near post.
Hecht was making his return after missing nine games because of
a wrist injury. Hecht, who has missed 34 games because of injuries
this season, hadn't scored since Nov. 9.
"It felt nice," Hecht said. "It's been a long time. It's real
good for my confidence."
Campbell opened the scoring at 16:33 of the first period when he
fired a wrist shot from the slot past a diving Hurme. Maxim
Afinogenov's pass from behind the net went through a couple of
players before Campbell grabbed the loose puck.
Kotalik closed out the scoring when he beat Hurme on a breakaway
at 3:47 of the third period.
Florida traded defenseman Brad Ference to Phoenix for left
wing Darcy Hordichuk and a second-round pick in the 2003 draft.
Hordichuk has 261 penalty minutes in 70 NHL games. ``He's a
miserable guy to play against,'' Panthers general manager Rick
Dudley said. ... Florida has been held to two goals or less in its
last eight games. ... Florida defenseman Igor Ulanov returned after
missing two games because of a toe injury.
Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press
Arena: BB&T Center Location: Sunrise, Florida
Referees: Blaine Angus, Tom Kowal Linesmen: Brad Kovachik
Attendance: 19,250 (100.0% full)
Team Stat Comparison
Power Play Goals
Power Play Opportunities
Shots on Goal
Brian Campbell (2)
Assists: Maxim Afinogenov, Eric Boulton
Stu Barnes (11)
Assist: Rhett Warrener
Jochen Hecht (6)
(Power Play) Assists: Rory Fitzpatrick, Taylor Pyatt
Ales Kotalik (17)
Assists: Curtis Brown, Miroslav Satan