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Sabres Central

Sabres and Leafs Tie one on
By Rick Anderson
January 4, 2001

In one of the most entertaining games of the season, the Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs played to a 1-1 tie in a crucial Northeast Division matchup. It was the front end of the home-and-home series between the two neighbor cities.

Erik Rasmussen flies towards the net in attempt to make things happen. Rasmussen was flying around the net all night. Other Leaf players are Danny Markov and Dave Manson (R).
[ REUTERS Photo/Andy Clark]

Dominik Hasek was just 2:44 away from posting his 50th career shutout. However, Jonas Hoglund cracked the Dominator's goose egg as he knocked in a rebound of Dimitri Yushkevich's shot in a wide open net as Hasek went out to cover Yushkevich.

When the Sabres and Leafs get together, you know you are going to get your money's worth, if you are lucky enough to acquire a ticket. All the Leafs games are sold out until the next millennium, but when the two teams come back to Buffalo, you can bet your house that the HSBC Arena will be half-filled with Leaf fans. There will be a tidal wave of blue and white coming down the QEW early Friday evening for the rematch. Wednesday's game in Toronto will be had to match. It was filled with heavy hits, great plays, another "No Goal", and a fantastic finish. If Friday's game comes anywhere close to the first game, the fans will get more than their money's worth.

CuJo vs. the Dominator

Who let the dog out? Curtis Joseph played one of his best games of the season when he made 24 saves, and he stole several sure goals from Buffalo late in the game and overtime when the Sabres could have won it.

At the other end of the ice, Hasek was stellar in goal, coming back from a less than average performance against Boston on New Year's Day. Dominik made 21 saves and looked like the Dominator who had shut out Ottawa last Friday. There was a scary moment when he took a Darcy Tucker line drive shot to the neck. Hasek was down on the ice for a long time before he finally got back on his feet and went back into the crease.

Mad Max breaks the goose egg

Maxim Afinogenov thought he had the game winner. Doug Gilmour pushed a pass up to Afinogenov and Max broke into the clear and looked like Gilbert Perreault as he bore down on Joseph. Afinogenov put his shot between Joseph's pads and the Sabres were 6:50 away from winning this one in Toronto's home court. It was Afinogenov's 8th of the season.

Another "No Goal?"

Haven't we traveled this road before? How many times have the Sabres had a controversial goal (or no goal) count against them. With under 3 minutes left in the second period and Tucker off for tripping, Jason Woolley got a shot off from the point that got pass CuJo. The ref immediately waived off the goal. Chris Gratton was in the crease, fighting for position with a Leafs defenseman and because of that, the ref ruled that Gratton had "interfered" with Joseph. Replays proved otherwise, as Gratton had turned his back and was facing Woolley as the shot was let go. Furthermore, Gratton did not interfere with the Leafs goalie, he was a clear half a foot away from Joseph.

Leafs' Cory Cross hauls down J.P. Dumont in the second stanza. Cross got away with this one.
[ REUTERS Photo/Andy Clark]

"Gratton's goal should have counted," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff fumed. "I'm sure if they looked at it again, they would agree with it. There have been a lot more goals scored this year where guys have been on top of goaltenders, there have been two or three guys in there. It was actually shaded in there by (Cory) Cross, and he tried to get out of the way. They said he bumped into him. But all Joseph did was put his hand out, tried to push him a little bit, and Gratton did his best to get out of the way. It was a tough call."

What made matters worse was the fact that Matts Sundin was as guilty as Gratton of being in the crease when Toronto scored. What goes for one team should go for the other. Either both goals are waived off or neither one is. Inconsistency continues to be a major problem with the NHL officiating. Back when the NHL changed its "in the crease" rules to accommodate Brett Hull's famous "no goal," the NHL has been allowing players hang out in the crease and the only instances when they disallow goals is when the goalie is literally mugged where he cannot make a play. That was certainly not the case Wednesday night in Toronto.

In a game as important as this one, another blown goal by the on-ice officials is ludicrous.

Lucky Leafs

The Maple Leafs not only got the benefit of a horrendous call going their way when Woolley's goal was disallowed, but the goal that Hoglund scored came when had the fortune of the puck bouncing right to his stick after Dimitri Kalinin had blocked the original shot by Yushkevich.

"Hoglund got a lucky bounce," said Hasek. "I think they were a little bit lucky to tie the game."

Hoglund had no qualms of how the puck went it. The goal prevented the Sabres from inching to one point behind the Northeastern Division leaders.

"I was just so happy," elated Hoglund. "It was a big goal. It was big for this team. It was a big point. I was surprised the puck ended up on my stick. It was a broken play, and it was an open net so it just went in."

Sabres Talk

The Sabres and Leafs pick up from where they left Friday night in Buffalo. This is a natural rivalry that has existed since the Sabres entered the league in 1970.

"Toronto is only 100 miles or so from Buffalo, so it's a big rivalry," said Hasek . "They talk about (the rivalry) here and they talk about (it) in Buffalo. We're also fighting for first place in our division."

Richard Smehlik attempts to tie up Leafs winger Shayne Corson as he gets off a shot in the second period. The Sabres and Leafs played a 1-1 draw.
[AP PHOTO/ Frank Gunn]

Ruff can't understand what the officials are going to call any more.

"I haven't seen it called," Ruff said about a goal being disallowed because a player was in the crease. "I can't remember the last time I've seen it called."

Gratton talked about the disallowed goal and was frustrated that he was called for interfering with Joseph.

"It was real hard to take," Gratton said. "At the time, both teams were fighting to get a goal. I was just trying to gain position. Jason made a great shot and I got my stick on it at the last second and it went in. I don't think I touched him at all (Joseph). I got shaded in (by Cross), but they (refs) said I bumped the goalie at the last second there."

"I got pushed a little bit and I tried to do my best to get out of the way of the crease," continued Gratton. "But the ref saw what he saw and he's got to make his calls. We thought they rearranged that rule and everything was pretty much fair game. If you look at some of the goals in the league now, there's a lot of involvement in the crease and a lot of guys bumping around."

Toronto coach Pat Quinn viewed the no goal from a different angle.

"Our goaltender wasn't able to take his position and that's what the rule states," Quinn said. "Sundin was on the back side of it. He wasn't interfering with the ability of the goaltender to make his play. That was the right call."

When Sundin was in the crease when during Hoglund's goal, it was none other than Gratton who was trying to clear Sundin from in front of Hasek.

"I thought Sundin kind of bumped him going through, so it's exactly the same," said Ruff.

Then Ruff turned his attention to the game.

"Aside from maybe 10 minutes in the first period I thought we played a helluva hockey game," Ruff commented. "I thought we had a lot of guys that showed a lot of battle and a lot of character."

The Leafs were happy with their game against the Sabres.

"We wanted to match the intensity Buffalo usually brings," Shayne Corson said. "They like to get in your face early and set the tone. We wanted to do that tonight and let them know we were ready to play from the start of the game."

CuJo played one of his better games of the season.

"It was a tight physical game and we played a lot better tonight," said Joseph. "We played smart hockey. We put a lot more thought into our game. We paid a lot more attention to detail."

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