Site hosted by Build your free website today!
Stars win the battles, hope to win the War
Sunday, June 13, 1999

The stage was set for one of the most dramatic Stanley Cup Finals game in a decade. Everything was in place. The weather was perfect, the sold out Marine Midland Arena was a Sea of Red as all the Sabres fans had their red Sabre jerseys on. The War of Words had been staged by the two combatants. This had been one of the most anticipated SCF games in a long time. It was the first Stanley Cup Final game held in Buffalo in 24 years, and to help celebrate the occasion, the entire 1975 Buffalo Sabre team was there and introduced to the pumped up crowd. Everyone showed up for this game, the fans, the media, the weather, the last Sabre SCF team, even Mike Modano with his broken wrist was there ready for the much anticipated war between the Sabres and Stars. Yes, the scene was set and the place was rocking. Everybody had shown up except for the current version of the Buffalo Sabres.

The fans were whooping it up 45 minutes before the game. The Arena was as loud as it has ever been. Surely with the 1975 team being introduced and the Sea of Red behind them, the Sabres would feed upon the flow of adrenalin and come up with their biggest effort yet. Well, folks, you were dead wrong! The Buffalo Sabres not only came up with their worst effort of this series, the completely reverted to their second half of the regular season form. This was the team that everyone was up in arms about from January on. This team was given every opportunity to win as referee Don Koharski awarded the Sabres with 8 power play chances, even in the last two minutes of play. But the Sabres were lucky to get any shots on goal during their man advantages. The Sabres were outplayed, outhit and outhustled from start to finish in their 2-1 loss to the Dallas Stars. The Stars Big D smothered everything the Sabres threw at them. They couldn't even get close to Ed Belfour. The Stars defense blocked twice as many shots as Belfour had to stop. It was the supreme effort of laying down the body for the cause. In essence, the Stars wanted this game more than the Sabres.

There had been all sorts of rumors swirling about Mike Modano. ESPN had first reported that Modano had suffered a hairline fracture of his wrist when Jay McKee had given him a huge hit in Game Two. They also reported that he injured his shoulder and was out for the rest of the series. Well, Modano surprised them all and played the entire game, and played well. He put several shots on Dominik Hasek and didn't seem to be too bothered by the wrist (he had it numbed up and was wearing protection around the wrist).

Brett Hull, who scored the game winner in the last game, injured his groin during his third shift when he was decked and went to the ice.

"This is the same injury that (he) had twice this year," Ken Hitchcock said. "The first time, he was right back 24 hours later. Next time, it was about seven days before he came back again. So we are really not sure right now. We can probably give you a better evaluation in a day or so. But if we had to play tomorrow, he wouldn't be a player."

The Sabres scored first in this one, as Stu Barnes continued his hot streak. With a delayed penalty being called and the Sabres having the extra attacker in the second period, Richard Smehlik was able to slide a pass across the slot to Barnes standing all alone to the right of Belfour. Barnes rammed it home and put the Sabres in front 1-0. It was Barnes 6th goal of the playoffs. The goal came at the 7:51 mark of the second period and was only the Sabres 5th shot on goal.

From that point on, it was the Joe Nieuwendyk and the Big D show. Nieuwendyk scored his league-leading 10th goal of the playoffs when he poked home his own rebound beneath the left glove of Joe Juneau, who was playing goaltender as Hasek had sprawled out to stop the original shot.

Nieuwendyk scored the game-winner midway through the 3rd period. Jamie Langenbrunner broke loose from Curtis Brown behind the net and centered a perfect pass to Nieuwendyk, who lifted the puck over Hasek top shelf where momma hides the Stanley Cup from the Buffalo Sabres.

"Jamie did a great job getting it to the front of the net. It just went through a few legs, came on my stick and I just pulled it to my forehand," Nieuwendyk said after the game. "Hasek's always on his way down so I was just able to get a fortunate shot away, upstairs and top corner."

The Sabres tied a Stanley Cup Finals record when they equaled an all-time low with 12 shots on goal during the entire game! They tied the Boston Bruins who had the same insignificant number against the Edmonton Oilers in 1988.

"They did an outstanding job of getting in front of pucks, no question about it, especially on our power play. They blocked a ton," Dixon Ward said in a post-game interview. "You gotta find a way to get the puck to the net. We knew they were good at that, we didn't adjust."

The Sabres certainly cannot complain about the officiating in this game like they had after the first two in the series. The Stars got 9 penalties to the Sabres 3. Buffalo had the man advantage a little over 7 times (they had a powerplay when Holzinger got called under 20 seconds into the advantage). At the end of the first and into the second period the Sabres had a two-man advantage and could hardly muster a shot on Belfour. The Stars in all, blocked 19 shots in this game! Belfour had to handle only 12 of them. You speak about being smothered, the Big D certainly is great at that.

As Peca said, "They can certainly make you feel like you're playing with a plastic bag over your head."

"That's what our guys are known for and always have been," Belfour said with a gleam after the game. "I think both Luddy (Ludwig) and Matty (Matvichuk) maybe should have been goaltenders. They're always making those kick saves and blocker saves."

The Sabres, who have surprised the large majority of hockey experts by coming this far in the playoffs, reverted back to their mid-late winter form last night. There had been a number of games during that stretch where they recorded under 20 shots on goal. They not only couldn't penetrate Dallas' Big D, but had an equally hard time getting through the neutral zone. Dallas played the trap to perfection last night and I have to give them perfect grades for a complete game. In a game billed as a retribution game, the Sabres fell way short of their pregame rhetoric. They clearly played better in their first two games in Dallas. To fall back into their regular season funk at this stage of the Stanley Cup playoffs is reprehensible. Here the sellout crowd is pumped like they never been pumped before. The entire 1975 SCF team is on hand to really add to the moment. But the Sabres fell way short of everyone's Great Expectations.

This is a half-full, half-empty scenario. If this makes sense, I feel it is a little of both. Dallas played up to their full potential and played a superb game. Buffalo on the other hand, may have been psyched out by the crowd and the heavy hitting and smothering style of Big D. Put it all together, and the Sabres sustain a HUGE loss at home and are now behind two games to one. Can they put it back together, win Game 4 and then another one in Dallas? That's a mighty TALL order, cowpokes.

Dallas 2, Buffalo 1

  1st 2nd 3rd TOTAL
Dallas 0 1 1 2
Buffalo 0 1 0 1

First Period
Scoring: None. Penalties: Ludwig, Dal (interference), 7:45; Chambers, Dal (roughing), 7:45; Rasmussen, Buf (roughing), 7:45; Matvichuk, Dal (roughing), 9:43; Skrudland, Dal (slashing), 18:13; Hatcher, Dal (roughing), 18:46.

Second Period
Scoring: 1, Buffalo, Barnes 6 (Smehlik, B Holzinger), 7:51. 2, Dallas, Nieuwendyk 10 (Reid, Langenbrunner), 15:33. Penalties: Zhitnik, Buf (interference), 3:38; Modano, Dal (Obstr tripping), 9:54; Modano, Dal (slashing), 12:21; B Holzinger, Buf (high sticking), 19:09; Modano, Dal (interference), 19:23.

Third Period
Scoring: 3, Dallas, Nieuwendyk 11 (Langenbrunner, Reid), 9:35. Penalties: Hrkac, Dal (tripping), 17:38.

Dallas 8 13 8 --29


Power-play Conversions: Dal - 0 of 2, Buf - 0 of 8. Goalies: Dallas, Belfour (12 shots, 11 saves; record: 14-6-0). Buffalo, Hasek (29, 27; record: 12-4-0). A:18,595. Referees: Gregson, Koharski. Linesmen: Scapinello, Sharrers.

Sabre Sword's 3 Stars Swords of the Game

1. Joe Nieuwendyk - Can you say Conn Smythe?

2. Mike Modano - Playing injured, he still contributed and showed hardly any sign of his wrist bothering him as he flew down the ice and had some good shots on Hasek.

3. Jamie Langenbrunner - Didn't score any goals but he was the one who set up Nieuwendyk on his game-winning goal and worked well along the wall on the forecheck.