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Fasten your seat-belts because the Finals are coming to Buffalo!
Monday, May 31, 1999

Don't wake me up! Don't wake me up! This dream is too good for it not to be true! I have pinched my self so much I'm bleeding! It is real - THE BUFFALO SABRES HAVE MADE IT TO THE STANLEY CUP FINALS! Believe it!

The Buffalo Sabres played their most resilient game of the season in beating the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2. The Sabres this entire playoffs have proven to be resilient, overcoming adversity like their counterparts, the Buffalo Bills during their Super Bowl years. It was a game of crazy bounces, fluke goals, 3 reviewed goals (2 disallowed for each team). But the Sabres overcame all obstacles either the Leafs or the refs put before them. And now they must concentrate on the ultimate goal in all of hockey - The Stanley Cup.

It was a bizarre game to say the least. Toronto's first goal was one of most flukiest of the year. A shot was taken by Steve Sullivan on Hasek, hit Alexi Zhitnik's stick and it popped high into the air. Hasek looked around and had no clue where it was as it was descending right behind his head and plopped right behind him into the net. Toronto scored another apparent goal when the Sabres were shorthanded. Mats Sundin was taken down and his skate was in the crease as the puck went past Hasek. The ref signaled the video judge and after review, the goal was waived off.

Buffalo came back and tied the score when Curtis Brown did his best impression of former Sabre great Gil Perreault by skating nearly end to end and beating Curtis Joseph top shelf. It was a picture perfect goal and Brown displayed a great skating ability. But the Leafs kept the pressure on Hasek and Sundin got the puck behind Hasek and made a great wrap around which was blocked. However, the rebound went right back to Kris King who banged it over the sprawled Hasek to retake the lead.

The Sabres got a powerplay goal by Vaclav Varada when he banged home his own rebound with 3:16 remaining in the second period.

The third period was sparked with controversy. Varada got a big rebound of a shot and tipped it in with his stick. But Joseph signaled to the ref that Varada kicked it in and they went upstairs with it. It seemed like eternity before the ruling came down that it was NO GOAL! Can you believe that? All the replays revealed that it hit the stick, even though Varada did lift up his skate, it clearly went off his stick. The Sabres were clearly robbed of a possible chance of advancing on that bogus ruling. But the Sabres were determined not to let that detract them from their mission.

The mission was clear - it's silver and elusive, but the Sabres feel that they have a right to it. Most teams would have collapsed when the video judges disallowed that goal by Varada. The Sabres kept the pressure on, and just a short time after the disallowed goal, Erik Rasmussen scored what turned out to be the game winner.

The Leafs got an opportunity to tie the score when Zhitnik was called for taking down Sundin. Hasek was solid stopping all shots directed at him during the power play and Dixon Ward was able to get a hold of the puck, clear it down the ice and watch it curve into the net. And that was it! The Fat Lady had sung for the Leafs! The Sabres were going to the Finals for the first time since 1975! What a game, what a series, was a season!

Rasmussen's series-clinching goal

Buffalo 4, Toronto 2

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

First Period
Scoring: None. Penalties: Peca, Buf (cross checking), 4:38; D King, Tor (interference), 6:06; D Ward, Buf (interference), 19:22.

Second Period
Scoring: 1, Toronto, Sullivan 3 (power play) (Karpovtsev, B Berard), 0:33. 2, Buffalo, Brown 7 (Grosek, R Warrener), 7:14. 3, Toronto, K King 1 (Sundin, Yushkevich), 12:54. 4, Buffalo, Varada 5 (power play) (B Holzinger, Zhitnik), 16:44. Penalties: Zhitnik, Buf (holding), 2:29; Smehlik, Buf (boarding), 4:43; Valk, Tor (interference), 7:42; Valk, Tor (roughing), 15:48; Modin, Tor (Obstr hooking), 18:20.

Third Period
Scoring: 5, Buffalo, Rasmussen 2 (B Holzinger, Woolley),11:35. 6, Buffalo, D Ward 6 (shorthanded empty net) (R Warrener), 18:58. Penalties: B Holzinger, Buf (roughing), 2:21; Zhitnik, Buf (Obstr holding), 17:21; D Ward, Buf (holding), 19:58.

Buffalo 4 9 9 --22


Power-play Conversions: Buf - 1 of 4, Tor - 1 of 7. Goalies: Buffalo, Hasek (24 shots, 22 saves; record: 11-2-0). Toronto, Joseph (21, 18; record: 9-8-0). A:18,800. Referees: B Mccreary, Van Massenhoven. Linesmen: Bonney, Sharrers.

Sabre Sword's 3 Stars Swords of the Game

1. The ENTIRE Buffalo Sabres Organization - The first star goes to the entire Buffalo Sabres organization, both past and present who molded this small-market, low-budget team into the team they are right now.

2. Vaclav Varada - Whether it be taking the hits in front of the net or mucking it out, Varada gave 100% tonight and is well-deserving of the #2 star.

3. Curtis Brown - What an end-to-end rush 'Gilbert Perreault style' Brown made in the second period to put the Sabres back in the game. A great goal scored by Curtis (Brown) on Curtis (Joseph).