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Sabres Central

Barnes' burner puts Pens on the brink
By Rick Anderson
May 6, 2001

What better way to show your respects to your former team than to score an overtime goal against them in the Stanley Cup playoffs? That is exactly what Stu Barnes did Saturday afternoon in Buffalo's HSBC Arena. Stu Barnes ripped a shot off the cross bar that got behind Pittsburgh Penguins' goalie Johan Hedberg 8:34 into overtime to give the Buffalo Sabres a 3-2 sudden death victory over the Penguins. With the exciting victory, the Sabres take a 3-2 lead in games heading back to Pittsburgh for Game 6 on Tuesday. They have two games to win one and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the third time in four years.

The celebration is on! Stu Barnes is mobbed by his teammates and he raises his stick in glee after scoring the game winning goal in overtime to beat the Penguins 3-2 in Game 5.
[AP Photo/ Don Heupel]

Barnes is a very humble man. He is not one to gloat about scoring against the team that traded him for Matthew Barnaby two years ago. But deep inside, one knows that Barnes must have felt mighty good about the goal that he scored that put his former team on the brink of elimination.

Barnes concentrated on the task ahead instead of the feat he just attained.

"For us, I don't feel like we've accomplished anything yet," admitted Barnes. "We feel that this is a dangerous team we're playing. You just go down the lineup there. They've got so many guys that can score goals that we're going to have to play a lot better than we did tonight."

The goal by Barnes was a barn-burner to say the least. The Sabres had controlled the play in the overtime stanza and it appeared as if they were going to keep the pressure on the Hedberg until they finally cracked his armor. Former Sabre Bob Boughner lost the puck to J.P. Dumont, who flipped it over to Barnes coming over the blue line. Barnes let go of a 40-foot bullet that ricocheted off the cross bar and dropped behind the goal line. The party was on as the Sabres fans had a boisterous celebration.

Another Sabres comeback

The Sabres dropped the first two games of this second round series to the Penguins in Buffalo. They had their backs against the wall when the made a remarkable comeback to win two straight in the Steel City. When the Penguins opened up a 2-0 lead by goals from Jaromir Jagr 14:51 into 1st period and Alexei Morozov with only 2:36 gone in the second stanza, it looked like the road warriors theme would continue. However, just like the series, the Sabres fought back and tired out the star-studded Penguins.

Mario Lemieux and Jagr combined for the first Pens goal when Lemieux, standing in the right faceoff circle, spotted Jagr with a pass that had eyes and Jagr shot a one timer past Hasek. The was Jagr's first goal of the series and only his second in the post season. Jagr then kissed his two fingers and pointed above with them in thanks for breaking his scoreless streak.

Being down 2-0, the Sabres had the confidence that they could stage a comeback. Maybe earlier this season, the team would have thrown in the towel right then. But this team seems to have the confidence that they can comeback from two or maybe even 3 goals down.

All Penguins' goalie Johan Hedberg can do is to look over his shoulder as Stu Barnes overtime shot beats him for the winning goal. The win puts the Sabres one victory away from advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals.
[AP Photo/Mark Mulville]

Sabres goalie Dominik Hasek made 25 saves and appears ready to make another run at the cup. He had some exceptional saves as usual and noted the "never say die" attitude the Sabres now sport.

"We were down, but we still believed," said Hasek. "We found a way to win. It was a great comeback. We battled very hard to the very end."

One thing the Sabres definitely had going for them in this one were many calls going in their favor. In the game, they had 8 powerplays, but only were able to connect on one. That one came 9:54 into 2nd period when Chris Gratton was able to convert the man advantage into a goal. His shot from the right faceoff circle deflected off the skate of Pittsburgh's Ian Moran and past Hedberg, putting Buffalo back into the contest.

The Sabres offense had a horrendous first period getting on 3 shots on Hedberg. At one point in the game, the Sabres had a 5-on-3 man advantage and could not get one shot on goal. Going into the third period, the Sabres seemed like they would have a hard time getting up to 15 shots in the game.

The turning point in the game turned out when the Penguins had a powerplay. Curtis Brown took the puck into the Penguins zone and plowed through a defender towards the goal. The puck's momentum pushed it towards Hedberg and somehow got through the goalie's pads. Hedberg quickly turned around and attempted to stop the puck's slow slide towards the goal line, but his effort was in vain and the Sabres suddenly had tied the Pens 11:15 into 3rd period. This was Brown's second straight shorthanded goal in the past two games.

The Sabres and Pens battled to the end of regulation tied at two. That's when the Sabres went for the kill in the overtime as they constantly kept the puck in the Penguins zone and pressured Hedberg until Barnes fateful goal.

Now the Sabres can finish the Pens off on Tuesday by winning. If Pittsburgh does win their first game at home in the series, then it will force a seventh game in Buffalo on Thursday.

Sabres Talk

As usual, Barnes deflected credit for the winning overtime goal.

"It was a great play by J.P. and Audette to make it possible for me to score the goal," lauded Barnes. "I probably had the easy part. Hold your breath, close your eyes and just shoot. To be honest, I think it was knuckleball."

Penguin goalie Johan Hedberg reaches back in vain to prevent the puck from going over the goal line in the third period after Curtis Brown put the puck on net. Brown was credited with the shorthanded goal which tied the game at 2-2.
[REUTERS Photo/Nick Jones]

"I was just going to let it go," described Barnes. "I had a chance early in the second period. I passed it off and should have shot it. From there, you've got to let it go."

Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said about Dumont's effort on the play that set up Barnes, "Dumont was winning the one-on-one battle at the end that made the difference."

Sabres teammate are starting to expect game winning goals from the former Penguin.

"I said to him after the game that I don't get too excited anymore, I expect it from him," laughed Rhett Warrener. "He's got that knack for getting in the right situation at the right time."

Jagr remembers being asked by Sabres players about Barnes when they acquired him for Barnaby.

"I know when he got traded you guys asked me what kind of player he is," said Jagr . "I said he was the best goal scorer on our team."

Barnes knew the team had to kick it up a few notches after falling behind 2-0 early in the second period.

"We didn't play the first the way we wanted to," said Barnes . "We got away from what made us successful. We turned a lot of pucks over and against that team you just can't do that. They're going to score goals."

Ruff had confidence in his team coming back.

"It's the time of year when you gotta believe you can do anything to get back in a hockey game," said Ruff.

Last season, the Penguins won their first two games against the Philadelphia Flyers in the second round, only to lose the next four and ungracefully bow out of the playoffs.

"Somebody told me that history does not repeat,"Jagr said. "I believe that."

"I don't know what happened," Jagr wondered about the result on Saturday. "It's not over. Anything's possible. We know we can play those guys, even if we're down 3-2. I've still got a lot of confidence in our team."


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