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Sabres Central

Hasek steals show against Caps
By Rick Anderson
April 7, 2001

Sabres goalie Dominik Hasek slides to make one of his 41 saves against the Washington Capitals. Steve Konowalchuk (22) made the initial shot, and Sabres defenseman Dmitri Kalinin comes in to put a stick on Konowalchuk.
[AP Photo/Don Heupel]

Dominik Hasek has his warrior's mask on, he has for a long time now. He proved that again Friday night in Buffalo's HSBC Arena as the Buffalo Sabres beat the Washington Capitals 2-1. With the victory, the Sabres moved two points ahead of the idle Philadelphia Flyers into sole possession of 4th place in the East.

If the Sabres had their choice, they would probably chose playing the Capitals instead of the Flyers in the opening round of the NHL playoffs. The Caps have played the Sabres tough, but Buffalo has just about owned the Capitals this season. The Sabres won the season series 2-1-1, with Buffalo winning the last two meetings. The Capitals would be a much better opponent for the Sabres in the first round, as they have yet to beat Philadelphia this season and have but one goal against Flyer phenomenon Roman Cechmanek in three contests. Cechmanek is the goalie who backed Hasek up when the Czech Republic won the Olympic gold medal in hockey a couple years ago. Also, the Flyers physically dominate the Sabres, while the Caps seem to pose no barrier to the Sabres.

The Sabres, by winning, ruined any chance of meeting the Caps in the first round. They clinched the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference with the victory.

The Dominator is playoff ready

Hasek is at the top of his game right now, just in time for the post season. So far this season, Hasek has a 37-23-4 record, leads the league with 11 shutouts and has a 2.10 GAA. The Sabres defensive unit leads the league with the fewest goals against, allowing only 182 so far with one game remaining. The Dominator has been the biggest factor in the Sabres drive towards the Jennings Trophy. The Dallas Stars are one back in that race.

Against the Caps, Hasek was in his ultimate glory. He made 41 saves, and if it weren't for a late third period penalty that Rob Ray took, Hasek would have recorded his 12 shutout of the campaign. Hasek reacted to the biggest workload of the season with one of his best efforts and stole a game that could have easily gone the other way.

"Dom was outstanding" beamed Lindy Ruff. "The extra days off really did him well. He was the difference in the game. We can rack that one up to great goaltending."

With the Dominator going after his "perfect dozen," Ray took an undisciplined roughing penalty and that broke Hasek's bid for the dozen goose eggs. With only 1:18 remaining Ulf Dahlen finally hit the back of the net and the Caps had a sudden upsurge of energy. They pulled goaltender Craig Billington, who had played in place of Olaf Kolzig, for the extra attacker. With more intense pressure on him, Hasek stood tall to the challenge and helped the Sabres clinch fifth place.

The Sabres left their goalie out to dry, especially in the third period when he had to face 23 shots. Hasek let his feelings known about the lack of support during the game.

"I wasn't disappointed by not getting the shutout, but I was much more disappointed in the way we played," criticized Hasek. "In the last 10 minutes, we were completely out of our system. It was really stupid what we were doing."

The Dominator made huge saves on Steve Konowalchuk and Jeff Halpern in the final stanza, who got off point-blank shots.

The Caps main goal-getter, Peter Bondra, was foiled time and again by the Sabres goal-robber. When Sergei Gonchar set up Bondra for a point-blank shot, Hasek somehow managed to get his pad over to stop the one-timer.

"He was tough," marveled Bondra. "He was in good position even though he gave up rebounds he was there."

Big Dave pulls his weight

Dave Andreychuk has been quietly doing his job this season. The big left winger has paid big dividends to the Sabres who took a chance on signing him during the off season. Andreychuk wanted to end his career where it started, in Buffalo. He offered his services at a much more reasonable rate than he could have gotten elsewhere. While the Sabres are paying half of the $6 million contract to Doug Gilmour and have recently acquired goal scorers Steve Heinze and Donald Audette, Andreychuk has been the most consistent of any of those so-called gunners. He scored his 20th of the season 13:15 into 3rd period.

Dave Andreychuk goes down with the Caps' Brantt Myhres during first period action. Andreychuk scored his 20th goal of the season in the third period, which was the game-winner.
[AP Photo/Don Heupel]

Chris Gratton was able to get the puck over to Andreychuk and Big Dave slammed it past Billington, who had a spectacular game of his own. It marked the 16th season that Andreychuk has gotten at least 20 goals.

With the addition of Heinze and Audette, Andreychuk has had his turn up in the press box more than he would have liked.

" Obviously, I would've liked to play a lot more this year, but hopefully this is going to save me for the playoffs," Andreychuk admitted. "It was something I was shooting for at the start of the year (20 goals). Obviously, you can't be satisfied, but at this point of my career, I'm pretty happy with it."

Andreychuk also had a hand in the first Sabres goal late in the second period.. Hasek started the play that got it all going. With the Sabres having a two-man advantage, Hasek dove to head the puck over to Andreychuk, who skated into the Caps zone and got it over to Audette. Audette was able to head it over to Dimitri Kalinin, who blasted a shot on Billington. The rebound came right to Satan, who was able to slip the puck under the prone goalie. There were only 42 seconds remaining in the period.

Billington was awesome at his own end. The backup goalie made stop after stop until Satan finally got one behind him late in the second period. He made 25 saves and some of them were Dominik-like.

The Flyers host the Pittsburgh Penguins Saturday afternoon and then they come to Buffalo for a 3 PM game that could decide the fourth place seed and who hosts the upcoming first round series. Whether Ruff starts Hasek will be determined in the Pens-Flyers game. If the Pens beat the Flyers, Buffalo automatically clinches the fourth seed as they hold the tie-breaker in more victories (5 as of Friday). If the Flyers beat Pittsburgh, then Hasek is likely to start in the Sunday matinee. V

Sabres Talk

Craig Billington was outstanding for the Caps, stopping 25 shots. Here he makes a save with his pad while Jeff Halpern takes out Sabres winger Donald Audette.
[AP Photo/Don Heupel]

Caps coach Ron Wilson was pleased with the effort even though it came up short.

"Motivation is not a problem," Wilson said. "We're very focused on trying to be a successful team and doing some damage in the playoffs."

Hasek described his efforts in helping keep the play going on the Sabres first goal while Buffalo had the two-man advantage.

"If your team is on the powerplay, you control every second," described Hasek. "I knew exactly when it was still 35 or maybe 50 seconds left to the powerplay. I knew they (the Caps) were tired, so I tried to play the puck to keep them on the ice."

Ruff lauded the Caps effort.

"They dominated us, so we can rack that one up to great goaltending," said Ruff. Talking about the poor Sabres play in front of Hasek, Ruff said, "I think part of it may be a product of the schedule. It wasn't a game you like to see...two games before going into the playoffs. I think the good thing is that we found a way to win the game."

"I don't know if the penalty cost the shutout," said Ruff. "He took a penalty, we didn't give up a high-quality chance on that particular penalty kill. I think Rob was in on the goal that helped us win the hockey game. (His) discipline has been at a premium throughout the year. He jumped a couple guys who were taking liberties with our guys and he was going out there trying to throw a few hits."

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