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Sabres Central

Sabres let Flyers off the ropes
By Rick Anderson
April 17, 2001

Game winner! Flyers' Andy Delmore is able to put the puck past Sabres goalie Dominik Hasek for the winning goal of Game 3 as the Flyers beat the Sabres 3-2 to get back into the series.
[AP Photo/Don Heupel]

The Buffalo Sabres had the Philadelphia Flyers right where they wanted them. Up 2 games to 0, the Sabres were playing their first game at home and had the sellout crowd of 18,690 at HSBC Arena behind them. When Chris Gratton scored almost 4 minutes into the game on a powerplay, the crowd started to think about a sweep over the Flyers. But then a costly turnover by Donald Audette to Kent Manderville 2:37 into 2nd period cost the Sabres the lead and possibly the game. Finally, another turnover, this time by Rhett Warrener did cost the Sabres in the game with under half a period left. It was Andy Delmore who scored the winning goal and the Flyers were let off the hook and beat the Sabres 3-2 in Game 3 of the opening series between the two familiar playoff foes.

"We got a little reckless in the second and third period," said Sabres coach Lindy Ruff. "We had six or seven great chances and we made two big mistakes, two turnovers."

The fortunes completely reversed in this game compared to the first two games of the series in Philadelphia. In those games, the Sabres took advantage of any opportunity and won the games on the road. The Flyers did exactly the same in Buffalo. They were outshot 28-19, but Philly capitalized on any chance they could to beat the Sabres and found new life in the series. Had the Sabres maintained their two leads of the game, Buffalo would now be up 3-0 in the series. As it is, the Flyers now are in the same position as they were last season against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Back then, they lost the first two of that series and came back to win four straight. The Sabres have to do whatever they can to prevent history from repeating itself.

Crucial turnovers wreck havoc

This has happened so many times this season. The Sabres play a good all-round game and they blow it with turnovers at the worst possible times. That was the case Monday night. With the Sabres completely outplaying the Flyers, the only way that Philadelphia had a chance to win was with stupid mistakes. With Cechmanek becoming a giant brick wall again, the Flyers played a patient game, just waiting for those mistakes to come and come they did.

First Audette's miscue that resulted in Manderville stealing the puck and the momentum of the game.

"I saw him (Manderville) before I turned," described Audette. "When I turned, I didn't see him. I threw it there. It was a stupid play. It was my fault. I deserve the blame."

Warrener also accepted the blame for the errant clearing attempt and the resulting goal that cost the Sabres the chance of taking a commanding 3-0 lead in the series.

"With less than 10 minutes to play, it's not a play you should try to make," Warrener admitted. "I didn't do it, and it kind of hurts right now. You make a mistake at a crucial time like that in a game, in a series, it's something I want to forget about. It's not real fun to deal with."

Hasek played poorly compared to Cechmanek. Being labeled as the premier goalie of the decade, Hasek has got to make those saves He only had to face 19 shots, and even though his teammates gave up horrendous turnover, Hasek has got to make those saves. In Game 2, Cechmanek, had to stop even more turnovers than Hasek did on Monday and he made many more spectacular saves than Hasek. In review of the series so far, Cechmanek is winning the Czech Republic goaltending war hands down.

"They had only a few chances, but they scored the goals," retorted Hasek. "It was the difference in the game. We made a couple mental mistakes. Our turnovers made the difference."

Now the Sabres must forget their blunders and try to prevent any more in Game 4 of this series. A Flyers victory would not only even the series but give the home ice advantage right back to Philadelphia.

Flyers keep fight back

Things looked good for the Sabres when they took an early lead on Gratton's goal. On the powerplay, Doug Gilmour put a shot on Roman Cechmanek and Gratton picked up the rebound. Focusing on the area where the Sabres have been having great success on Cechmanek, down low on shots, Gratton put it low on the Flyers' goalie and the Sabres had the momentum going. However, Cechmanek came out and played his strongest game of the series so far and kept the Flyers in the game until some breaks came there way.

The first break was Audette's errant clearing attempt up the middle instead of along the boards. Manderville intercepted the clearing attempt and shot up high on Dominik Hasek to tie the game at 1. That giant gaffe may have cost the Sabres the momentum that they were gaining in the game.

A Sabres giveaway led to the tying goal by Philadelphia at 2:37. Donald Audette had the puck along the boards. Instead of sending the puck out of the zone along the boards or off the glass, he passed it toward the middle of the ice where Kent Manderville picked it off. The Flyer immediately shot the puck that beat Hasek up high.

Less than two minutes later, the Sabres had another powerplay and Miroslav Satan put the puck through the crease area and Steve Heinze one-timed it into the empty quarter of the net to put the Sabres up 2-1. Had the momentum shifted back over to the Sabres? Not if Cechmanek could have anything to do with it. The former backup to Hasek in the last Olympic games, shut the door from then on and gave the Flyers exactly what they needed - time to capitalize on any possible Sabres mistake.

The Sabres ended up a man short when Curtis Brown took a hooking penalty and the Flyers took advantage of their man advantage. Mark Recchi got the puck over to Keith Primeau, who played despite his left knee injury. Primeau rang the puck off the post, where it landed at the feet of Simon Gagne. Gagne wacked it past Hasek and the game was tied again.

Then came the biggest Sabre blunder of them all came 11 minutes into the third period. Attempting to clear the puck out of the Sabres zone, but it was instead picked off by Damond Langkow who sent a shot on goal and Andy Delmore deflected his shot past Hasek for the game winner.

Delmore was put into the lineup by Flyers' coach Bill Barber after being scratched the first two games. Delmore took advantage of the opportunity to beat the Sabres.

"It was really sweet," said a joyous Delmore . "From not playing the first two games to being able to help the team out and get a victory. What more can you ask for? I was excited."

Sabres Talk

"Call it lucky, call it what you want you want, I guess, I don't know," Barber said. "Having Delly in tonight rewarded our team with a win. He came up with obviously a big goal for us."

"As important as this game was for us, it's nullified if we don't come ready to compete tomorrow," said Primeau, who didn't back down from a hard-hitting style. "I expected to be bumped early, bumped often. ... The one good thing for me, the more times I got hit, the more my confidence grew."

"They played well defensively," Hasek said. "Offensively, they didn't create anything. They just scored the goals."

Primeau may have hastened his return to the lineup because the Flyers were down two games to none, but he seemed comfortable out on the ice. Having missed three weeks because of the left knee which had partially torn ligament, Primeau had to get the doctor's clearance before stepping out on the ice.

Primeau got an early test of the knee when Sabres winger Vaclav Varada did his best impression of Scott Stevens when he slammed Primeau to the ice right off the opening faceoff.

"I knew I was going to get hit early," admitted Primeau. "But I didn't think I was going to get hit that early."

Then the big Flyers center talked about the team's resiliency.

"It's really become a trademark of our club," boasted Primeau. "It's become so much a part of our makeup, we just put ourselves in a position to be resilient. And I thought our guys' preparation and focus was great today. We understood the consequences if we didn't come out of this with a win."

"We bought ourselves another day is what we did," Primeau continued. "We recognized that. They're playing good hockey over there. Now we have to regroup and come to play."

Gratton, Buffalo's edition of Keith Primeau, has scored 2 goals on his former team in 3 games. He knows that the Flyers will be tough to knock out, no matter how far behind they are.

"They're not going to quit at any time," cautioned Gratton. "Even if the series was 3-0, they're not going to quit. They're going to fight all series. We've said before it's going to be a long series. Nobody expected it to go four straight. They're a good hockey team, and so are we. It's going to make for a good series."

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