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Sabres Central

Flyers back from the dead
By Rick Anderson
April 20, 2001

Simone Gagne charges through the crease and scores on Sabres goalie Dominik Hasek in the first period of the Flyers 3-1 victory.
[AP Photo/Chris Gardner]

This was not a sight that Sabres fans wanted to see. Here was Dominik Hasek at his worst. He threw his glove not once but twice and was arguing with the referees about being interfered with. The Dominator was frazzled and this was not the time nor the place that Sabres fans wanted to see it happen. Neither did Sabres coach Lindy Ruff. The Flyers had finally gotten under Hasek's skin and the result was a crucial 3-1 Philadelphia Flyers victory over the Buffalo Sabres in Game 5 of the opening round series. The Flyers, with the win, not only starved off elimination, but have grabbed the momentum of the series as it goes back to Buffalo for Game 6 on Saturday.

Hasek not only lost his cool but the game with his temper. The Flyers were a desperate team and the only way they knew how to beat Hasek was to run him and get him completely off his game. The only question is why did the Flyers wait so long to employ their run and bump tactics on Hasek?

With Hasek losing his composure, the Sabres knew this was going to be a long night. In the third period, both Keith Primeau and Sabres defenseman James Patrick bowled over Hasek when going after the puck. Hasek got furious and slammed his glove down to the ice and protested to the referee. His constant whining cost him a 10-minute unsportsmanlike, but he was lucky he didn't get a two minute penalty instead.

Hasek was still upset after the game about Primeau running him.

"I didn't even try to make a save, because I know he's coming out at my knees," protested Hasek . "I was protecting myself. That's why I was so upset."

When told of Hasek's comments, Primeau replied, "That's asinine."

Ruff sided with his goalie, saying that Primeau used those tactics throughout the game and in the past.

"He spins around, pretends he doesn't know where he's going and bumps into the goalie, and tries to run right through him," described Ruff. "I've seen that move before."

If the Sabres are to prevent a return trip to Philly, they will have to do much better than they did Thursday night in Philadelphia. Hasek will have to keep his composure. The Sabres depend on their goalie to pull one out of the hat and play his best game of the series. He has now allowed 3 goals in each of his last 4 games. Hasek has been clearly outplayed by Cechmanek in every game so far in this series. Hasek made 30 saves, but was clearly not as sharp as Cechmanek, who made 25 saves.

Sabres let Flyers off the hook again

As has been the story the whole series, the Sabres keep allowing the Flyers to get back not only in the games but also the series. Twice the Sabres have had the Flyers on the ropes and Philly has climbed right back into the series. First, Buffalo won the first two games and the Flyers came back and won the first game in Buffalo. Then the Sabres took what seemed to be a commanding 3-1 lead in the series only to lose again in Philadelphia.

To say the game on Saturday is the pivotal game in the series is a vast understatement. If the Flyers win in Buffalo in Game 6, then it will be highly improbable that the Sabres will be able to go back to Philly and pull it out.

The Flyers opened the scoring when Simon Gagne scored on his own rebound during a power play 14:14 into 1st period. That set the tone and got the Flyers fans into the game. The Sabres tied it up 8:60 into 2nd period when Maxim Afinogenov got his first playoff goal. That would be it for the Sabres. They never really got any great chances on Cechmanek, and the few they did get, the big goalie who has been outplaying Hasek in the entire series covered the net with his big body or made some outstanding saves.

About 8 minutes after Afinogenov's goal, the Flyers struck with the winner. With Curtis Brown off for high sticking, Mark Recchi walked in on Hasek from the blue line and shot the puck past the Sabres goalie on the near side. This was another goal that Hasek should have stopped.

"I shot it as hard as I could at his glove," described Recchi. "They kept backing off, so I kept walking in and they let me."

Near the beginning of the third period, Chris Therien scored the insurance goal as the Flyers took a two-goal lead on the Sabres. Right off a faceoff, Therien retrieved the puck and shot the puck up high into the top corner and the Flyers had the Sabres right where they wanted them.

"It was nothing fancy," said Therien. "I was just shooting it at the net, trying to get it through."

Flyers now have the momentum

The Flyers now have the momentum to come all the way back from their 3-1 deficit to win the series. All they have to keep doing is to continue to hammer away at Hasek to get him riled up and then play their physical game to beat down the Sabres. The Sabres as a team played their worst game of the playoffs, as their passes were off target, they weren't hitting, they didn't defend Hasek when he was being run into the entire game and their heads were not into the game. If they play this same way on Saturday, then they will end up going back to Philadelphia for Game 7. That is one scenario the Sabres do not want. Having to go back into the First Union Center is a recipe for disaster.

Sabres Talk

The Flyers knew they had to come out banging and give it their best shot or their season was over.

"We just bought ourselves a few more days," related Primeau.

The Sabres, meanwhile, let a huge opportunity to finish off the Flyers for good slip from their grasp. Now they face the great possibility of returning to Philly for Game 7.

"We don't want to come back here," admitted Vaclav Varada. "We let them back in the series. We don't want to blow it like that. We don't want to blow a 3-1 lead."

Hasek, who has not had superlative game yet in the series, is also anxious to get the series over with on Saturday.

"I wish to finish next game," said Hasek. "But you have to play better to finish it in Buffalo. Today, they were the better team."

"We're still in the lead here," mentioned Gratton. " We knew they would fight to the end. We'll correct things on Saturday and try to win it at home."

The Flyers were all smiles in their dressing room. And why not? They now have the ball rolling for them and appear the favorites to win the series in Philly on Monday.

"We just got back to the kind of hockey we played all year," said Therien. "It was consistent, grind-it-out hockey."

The man who scored the game winner agreed with Therien.

"It was our best game, no question," Recchi said. "We've done it all year. None of the guys wanted to end the season. We're going to have to take the same game to Buffalo on Saturday. We know we're going into their building now and they'll play a great hockey game and we'll have to match their desperation, if not more. We know we've still got a long way to go."

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