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There was no post-game celebration from the Leafs fans
Saturday, May 29, 1999

As you approached Pearl Street, the street before the arena an hour before game time, you thought you had come across an abortion rally, much less the pre-game festivities before a hockey game. There were hundreds of Leaf fans blocking the entrance to the Arena and were all screaming and waiving flags. On the other side were Sabre fans, trying to out-do the Leafers by shouting louder. In between were 4 police cars parked in the middle of the road. Just like in an abortion rally, a few crazed fans had to be escorted to the police vehicles. The two sides were going at it for almost a full hour and didn't depart for their seats until just a few minutes before game time.

The stage was set for a crucial game three of the Eastern Conference Finals. Inside the Arena, the atmosphere was electric and the crowd was really pumped up. Over 2,000 Leaf fans made their presence known and they were determined to help their home team come back in this series. But the Sabres had other things in mind. Dixon Ward scored a shorthanded goal on Curtis Joseph at the 16:15 of the first period and the house was rocking. Dominik Hasek got his first assist of the playoffs on Ward's goal. It set the stage for an explosive second period.

In a span of 2 minutes and 35 seconds, the Sabres blew the Leafs out of the game with three unanswered goals. Brian Holzinger led off the barrage when he intercepted a pass from Steve Sullivan and he tore down the ice towards CuJo and flipped a shot past the dumbfounded goalie to put the Sabres up 2-0. But that was just the beginning! A Sabre who's the least likely hero, scored the winning goal. Rob Ray, who's been benched for most of the playoffs, scored on CuJo after Stu Barnes bounced it in front off the boards. This was Ray's first goal since March 6 of last year.

The fans didn't even have time to get back into their seats when Geoff Sanderson got the rebound off a shot by Miro Satan and pounded it home past the panting Dog CuJo. The Sand Man scored his second straight goal nine minutes later when he slammed home a one-timer past a dissipated Dog. It was Sanderson's third goal in this series. The Sabres bombarded the Leafs with 4 goals in the second period and that nailed the lid on the coffin! The game was practically over and Lindy Ruff could have put in Roloson in the third period. Pat Quinn did relieve CuJo by putting in Glenn Healy. The Sabres went back into their defensive shell, getting only 5 shots on goal, when they could have continued the attack. They put their weapons away for another night, but the Leafs came on strong, blistering Hasek with 16 shots. The Dominator was strong in the nets and should have had a shutout, but was denied it when Mats Sundin was awarded a penalty shot because Jay McKee closed his hand on the puck in the crease. He only had it in for a second, but that was long enough for the ref to make the rule. I have to honestly contest that ruling. It makes no sense. A penalty shot for that? That should have only been a two minute penalty. With the entire crowd standing on its feet and screaming wildly, Sundin took the puck at center ice and cruised in on Hasek. He flipped the puck over Hasek, top shelf where Lord Stanley hides the Cup from the Maple Leafs. That let the steam out of the grand party going on at Marine Midland Arena and sparked the Leafs on to get more on Hasek. Their chance came when Sundin scored his second straight goal, a power play when he gathered in his own rebound and flashed it past the Czech goalie.

But the party was on! The Sabres fans knew that their team had taken a 3-1 lead in the series and were most likely heading to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1975. Most of the Leafs fans left early, knowing that their team will once again be denied going to the Finals for the first time since 1967. That is, unless they stage a miraculous comeback and win 3 straight against the Surging Sabres and the world's best goalie in Dominik Hasek. It is a very tall order indeed. It appears as if the Leafs have fallen again and it's not even summer yet! The Sabres better have their rakes ready on Monday, ‘cause there's going to be a lot of wilted leafs lying on the ice to be raked up!

Leaving the Arena, it was a much different scene than the one before the game. The Leaf fans were silently strolling to their destination while Sabre fans were rubbing it in. Sabre fans were really whooping it up, waiving flags and the party was only beginning. For the Leaf fans, it was going to be a long ride home.

See one of Geoff Sanderson's goals in Game 4

Buffalo 5, Toronto 2

  1st 2nd 3rd TOTAL
Toronto 0 0 2 2
Buffalo 1 4 0 5

First Period
Scoring: 1, Buffalo, D Ward 5 (shorthanded) (Mckee, Hasek), 16:15. Penalties: Sanderson, Buf (goalie interference), 4:51; Domi, Tor (Obstr holding), 11:12; Adams, Tor (Obstr tripping), 12:43; Hasek, Buf (interference), 14:35; Thomas, Tor (roughing), 18:52.

Second Period
Scoring: 2, Buffalo, B Holzinger 3 (unassisted), 2:51. 3, Buffalo, Ray 1 (Barnes, Woolley), 5:04. 4, Buffalo, Sanderson 2 (Satan, Brown), 5:26. 5, Buffalo, Sanderson 3 (Satan), 14:10. Penalties: D Ward, Buf (tripping), 6:55; D Ward, Buf (Obstr hooking), 15:12.

Third Period
Scoring: 6, Toronto, Sundin 7 (penalty shot), 6:59. 7, Toronto, Sundin 8 (power play) (Domi, Adams), 18:03. Penalties: Sullivan, Tor (goalie interference), 1:43; Brown, Buf (Obstr tripping), 16:27.

Toronto 6 11 16 --33


Power-play Conversions: Tor - 1 of 5, Buf - 0 of 4. Goalies: Toronto, Joseph (27 shots, 22 saves; record: 9-7-0), Healy (start of 3rd, 5, 5). Buffalo, Hasek (33, 31; record: 10-2-0). A:18,595. Referees: Faucette, Gregson. Linesmen: Broseker, Schachte.

Sabre Sword's 3 Stars Swords of the Game

1. Rob Ray - So who was saying that Ruff should not place Ray into the line-up again?

2. Geoff Sanderson - To match Toronto's depth, we needed players like Sanderson and Barnes to step up. Four games into the series, both these players have stepped up and scored some huge goals and as a result the Sabres are looking to wrap up the series before the beginning of June.

3. Miroslav Satan - I felt like giving one of the stars to Rasmussen because he played an all-around solid game but it was Satan driving to the net which set up two of our goals in the second period.