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Sabres Central

Leafs beat down Sabres - Tucker assaults Ray
By Rick Anderson
January 21, 2001

The Leafs Garry Valk slams into Dominik Hasek from behind, smashing his head up against the glass. For this flagrant infraction, Valk only got a 2-minute interference penalty. From there, the game went south and became ugly.
[AP Photo/Aaron Harris]

When the Leafs and Sabres get together, you can expect slug fest and plenty of action. That's exactly what the two teams provided the 19,360 fans in the Air Canada Centre as the Leafs blanked the Sabres 2-0. The intensity in the rivalry between the Sabres and Leafs overspilled into the corridors when Darcy Tucker went after Rob Ray with his stick after both were ejected from the game.

Tucker was heard to have shouted, "I'm going to kill you," as he accosted Ray outside the Sabres dressing room. He had to be restrained by the Leafs' Tie Domi and sent back to the Leafs dressing room.

There is no love lost between the Sabres and Leafs when they lock horns, and this game was typical of the blood-fest that has become so familiar in the on-going rivalry between the two neighboring cities. With the win, the Leafs pull a point in front of the Sabres into second place in the Northeast Division. Curtis Joseph stopped 28 Sabres shots and recorded his fifth shutout of the season. The Leafs, meanwhile, peppered Dominik Hasek with 38 shots and the Dominator had to be sharp to prevent this one from being a blowout.

Except for the lone goal that the Sabres scored in the last 7 seconds of the game against Florida Friday, the Sabres have been shooting blanks during their two weekend games.

Cujo phenomenal

Joseph practically stood on his head to keep the Sabres off the boards in this one. He made Buffalo shooters know what it feels like when they have to face Hasek.

Denis Hamel, who scored with only 7.9 seconds remaining to beat Florida on Friday, almost tied the game up at 1 in the third period when he sent a blistering shot on net that Cujo somehow stopped with his stick.

"That was unbelievable," said Sabres coach Lindy Ruff. "You have to give Joseph a lot of credit. He beat us tonight."

The shutout was Joseph's 31st in NHL play and although he had 10 less saves than Hasek, he was clearly the better of the two goalies on this night. Hasek, meanwhile, would not admit he was out-Dominated by Cujo.

"I don't want to say CuJo had a better game, but he didn't give up any goals,"said Hasek. "He made the key saves for his team."

Cujo's teammates would debate Hasek's statement.

Rhett Warrener delivers a punishing hit on the Leafs Tie Domi during the third period in a very physical game between the Sabres and Maple Leafs.
[AP Photo/Aaron Harris]

"Hasek might get the best of you, but in my opinion, Curtis is the best goalie in the world," said Shayne Corson.

Hasek was sensational at his own end and it looked as if the game was going to be another scoreless tie until Jason Woolley made a fatal error that cost the Sabres the game.

With over 3 minutes left in the second stanza, Hasek chased after the puck behind the net and pushed it over to Woolley. Woolley's weak pass was picked off by Darcy Tucker who came in on Hasek's left. Tucker's shot went off Hasek and came to Shayne Corson who batted it in behind Hasek to literally win the game.

"It was a lucky goal," Hasek commented.

The clincher came in the third period. It came right after Joseph denied Hamel a goal and Sabres defenseman Jay McKee had pinched in on the play. Igor Korolev roared back into the Sabres zone on a 2-on- with Woolley the lone Sabre between Korolev and Hasek. Instead of challenging Korolev, Woolley kept retreating towards the Buffalo goal. Korolev let go a shot that trickled through Hasek's pads and sealed Buffalo's fate. It was one of the weakest goals the Buffalo netminder has allowed since he has come back to his old Dominating form after the West Coast swing over a week ago.

In the third period as Buffalo was trying to get the equalizer, Jay McKee came in deep but Toronto gained possession and skated back on a two on one. As Korolev reach the Buffalo blue line, Woolley was skating back while Korolev kept coming, unchallenged. As Korolev came in deeper, Woolley kept backing in toward Hasek. Then, Korolev held the puck for a couple of seconds and put the shot between Hasek's pads giving the Leafs a 2-0 lead with a little over 5 minutes left in the game. The goal came 15:45 into 3rd period and the Sabres decided to suddenly play physical after that, when the game was already out of reach.

Power outage

The Sabres have not been burning holes in the nets as of late. Wipe out that last second goal by Hamel against the Panthers and the Sabres were shooting goose eggs over the weekend.

The Sabres got only 3 powerplays compared to Toronto's 7. Don Van Massenhoven was the referee involved in the Rob Ray stick-throwing incident that cost Ray a 7-game suspension. Van Massenhover was officiating his first Sabres game since that game and he made his presence know by giving the Blue and White numerous man advantages while the Sabres were being manhandled by the Leafs with seldom a whistle. As a result, the Sabres had to kill 7 penalties, some at crucial times.

"It's tough to generate anything when you're four on five all night," fumed Ruff.

Game gets out of hand

In the third period, Hasek attempted to play the puck behind the net and Garry Valk ran into the Sabres goalie like a freight train, smashing his head into the plexiglass. It was clearly an attempt to injure Hasek, and he was down on the ice for quite awhile. Valk only got an interference call, when that kind of assault merited a 5-minute major.

"When a player hits from behind, it's usually four minutes at least," complained Hasek. "When the player's bleeding, it's usually at least four. But the ref didn't want to hear about it. My mouth was bleeding."

Maxim Afinogenov gets dumped by the Leafs Yanic Perreault during the first period in a Leafs 2-0 victory over Buffalo.
[AP Photo/Aaron Harris]

The game got ugly after that. The Sabres knowing that the officials were not going to call much of anything on Toronto, decided to fight back. Valk was the No. 1 target in the Sabres mind. Rhett Warrener decided to clean Valk's clock and clearly won the fight between the two.

That melee got the Sabres into a shorthanded situation again. After Warrener was separated by the officials, Tie Domi came in for a piece of Warrener. Domi should have received a third man in penalty, but both he and Doug Gilmour got misconducts and after all the penalties were sorted out, the Sabres somehow were on the short end again.

"Thy changed their mind (about who to assess penalties to) a couple of times out there," commented Gilmour. "I said some things and he (Van Massenhover) gave me 10 minutes."

Ruff was besides himself over the lopsided refereeing. The last time the Sabres had played in the Air Canada Centre, his team was denied a sure goal, while the Leafs were awarded a goal that could have been as easily disallowed.

"If Valk can run over your goaltender, you got to expect Warrener to go after him," insisted Ruff said. "Rhett did the right thing. Rhett deserved an extra two but Domi doesn't get an extra two for going after Warrener in the same incident? We come out with the extra two there?"

With Van Massenhover and the other ref, Bill McCreary, letting the game get out of hand, the game turned into a brawl.

Ray got into the action late in the period as he went after Tucker and got into his face. Ray kept edging Tucker on, even when the refs had the two separated and really incited Tucker's ire. Ray supposedly made a comment about Tucker's brother-in-law, who just happens to be Corson. That was it for Tucker, he went ballistic. Tucker had to be escorted from the game as he threw a tantrum down the walkway leading to the dressing room. Knowing that Ray had also been ejected from the game, Tucker decided take a sudden detour to the Sabres dressing room and meet up with Ray for his personal attack on his brother-in-law, with stick in hand as his weapon of choice.

According to witnesses on the scene, Tucker screamed, "I'm going to kill you."

Domi, who has been Ray's fighting partner for years when the Sabres and Leafs play, came out in street clothes and broke up the fracas, sending Tucker where he belonged, in his own dressing room. Corson, wearing only his underwear joined the dispute along with Gilmour.

"What (Ray) said I can't repeat," said Corson . "When trash talking like that starts, it's bad for the game. It's okay to chew back and forth, but not that stuff tonight. That's for other sports. It shows you the class of the person (Ray) who said it."

Leafs coach Pat Quinn overheard Ray's remarks and took immediate exception to them. He said that Tucker's actions were justified.

"(That's) as low as you can get," said Quinn. "So low I'd have hit (Ray) on the head with my stick."

Ray was quick to point out that both Tucker and Corson had been trash talking the entire game.

"They're always non-stop yapping," said Ray . "Things are said out there all the time and they're going to get it back. Any time you play an intense game, there's a lot of shots."

After having some time to calm down, Tucker issued a warning to Ray.

"I was fired up," Tucker said. "(Ray's words) are something that will be looked after in its own way."

It is amazing in the first Sabres game that Van Massenhover calls since the Ray stick-throwing tantrum, he is the same official that involves Ray again and a Matthew Barnaby-like corridor fight afterwards between Ray and Tucker.

The two teams don't meet again until March 20 in Buffalo. It is doubtful that time will heal the wounds and the aguish between these two arch rivals. If the league is smart, they will not schedule Van Massenhover to officiate that game.

Sabres Talk

Miroslav Satan has to be scratching his head about the Sabres inability to score lately.

"It would make a difference if we were able to get the goal and have a lead at the beginning of the game," Satan said. "We haven't been able to do that and that probably cost us a game."

Hasek noticed that the Leafs came out with much more intensity than the Sabres displayed until he was waylaid from behind by Valk in the third period.

"It seemed like they were winning more battles," Hasek. "They were like bees around me. They were hungry, maybe more hungry than we were."

Joseph, on the other hand, gave his team full marks for the high intensity they displayed.

"If we brought that (emotion) every night, we'd be tough to beat," Joseph said. "This is a good rivalry. We've got to do that against teams like Atlanta and Minnesota, approach every team like we do Buffalo. We have to play like Buffalo is coming in."

"You've got to be ready to battle and we were tonight,'' continued Joseph. "That's the bottom line. We were ready to battle."

Tucker was definitely fired up and it showed when he went ballistic after being ejected from the game and stormed to the Sabres dressing room to scalp Ray.

"From staff to management, we were fired up," Tucker said.

"We have some emotion on our team," said Quinn. "We've been playing pretty well for the last four games and maybe we weren't getting the results. But tonight we competed hard and it was a good hockey game and we got the result after playing pretty well."

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