Sabres bounced by Flyers

Posted: Friday, April 21, 2000

PHILADELPHIA -- The Buffalo Sabres' post-Stanley Cup lament last season was No Goal. This year, they're out of the playoffs because of no goals.

The Philadelphia Flyers scored two relatively soft goals against Dominik Hasek, the NHL's premier playoff goaltender, and closed out the Sabres 5-2 in Game 5 of their NHL first-round series Thursday night.

Dan McGillis' long slap shot sailed by Hasek with eight seconds left in the first period, and his floater from just inside the blue line was redirected by John LeClair for the go-ahead goal midway through the second period.

''I was in the right position, but the puck completely changed direction,'' Hasek said of the momentum-shifting McGillis goal. ''Ninety-nine percent of the time I make the save, but it was coming into the my lap, then rising into my chest or my stomach or something ... I don't know.''

Those are the kind of goals Hasek seldom allows in the postseason, especially last season when his strong play carried the Sabres to the Stanley Cup finals.

Then, the Sabres lost the Stanley Cup finals to Dallas on Brett Hull's disputed in-the-crease goal late in the third overtime of Game 6. This series turned when the Sabres lost Game 2 on LeClair's phantom goal that found a hole in the side, not the front, of the net. Buffalo trailed 2-0 after that loss, and never recovered.

''Maybe we got a goal that shouldn't have counted, but that's not why we won the series,'' said rookie goaltender Bryan Boucher, who stopped 20 of 22 shots. ''We didn't let Dominik Hasek intimidate us. We got some ugly goals, but we created traffic in front of the net and worked for the goals we got.''

Daymond Langkow made it 3-1 slightly more than three minutes after LeClair's goal, an advantage much too big to overcome for a star-less Sabres offense that scored only eight goals in the five games.

''First and foremost, they were the better team in the series,'' Dixon Ward of the Sabres said. ''In just about every area, they were better.''

Hasek agreed, saying, ''They were the hungrier team from the beginning. They played very disciplined hockey and did everything they were supposed to within their system.''

Simon Gagne also scored a power-play goal at 9:55 of the third period after Stu Barnes' goal had briefly cut the Flyers' lead to 3-2. The Flyers, who had the NHL's second-best power play during the season, scored nine of their 14 goals in the series on the power play.

''You're not going to get easy goals against Dominik Hasek, but tonight we found a way,'' Langkow said.

Bounced by the Sabres in a first-round upset in 1998 and again by Toronto a year ago, the top-seeded Flyers advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals for the first time since 1997.

''Everybody said, 'You don't want to be the No. 1 seed, you don't want to have to play Buffalo and Hasek,' '' Boucher said. ''We didn't care. We weren't intimidated.''

The Flyers' second-round opponent remains undetermined, but will be seventh-seeded Pittsburgh if the Penguins don't blow a 3-1 series lead against Washington. Game 5 of that series is Friday night in Washington.

After Gagne's goal, some Flyers fans began chanting, ''We Want Pittsburgh'' -- and no wonder, since the Flyers were 3-0-1 against the Penguins this season.

The Flyers broke two longstanding NHL playoff rules in eliminating Buffalo 4-1 -- Hasek never gives up easy goals in the postseason, and he always keeps the Sabres in the playoffs longer than they should expect to hang around.

''Dominik Hasek probably is the No. 1 goalie in the league. People don't realize how tough he is to score against,'' the Flyers' Rick Tocchet said. ''A lot of games, you'll only get two or three chances against him. They're very aggressive defensively because they've got him back there.''

McGillis' goal was the crusher, and it undid everything that Buffalo had done up until then to take the 1-0 lead.

Richard Smehlik of the Sabres scored at 8:44 of the first, a slap shot from the left point off a face-off won by Michael Peca.

The Flyers kept pressing for the tying goal, and finally got it as McGillis took new Flyers captain Eric Desjardins' cross-ice pass and teed up a slap shot from the left point. The shot was so hard that it rattled the water bottle atop the net as it whistled past Hasek's right shoulder.

The Flyers scored at least one power-play goal in every game of the series, a streak kept alive when LeClair scored at 9:47. McGillis' shot hardly seemed threatening as he let it go but Hasek, apparently screened, didn't pick it up well, allowing LeClair to put his stick on it.

''Special teams wins and loses a series nowadays, and their special teams won it,'' the Sabres' Dixon Ward said.

That goal reenergized a noisy crowd of 19,801, and the momentum carried over to Langkow's goal at 12:52. Simon Gagne dug the puck out along the rear boards and fed Tocchet, who moved it to Langkow in the low slot.

Langkow added an empty-net goal with one-tenth of a second remaining -- the least amount of time possible for a goal.

As the Sabres left the ice, coach Lindy Ruff was struck by a flying cup, causing a bruise on his left cheek.

''I've been hit harder before,'' he said. ''I think it is disappointing, but they (the fans) are very emotional. One guy doesn't ruin it for the other 19,000 here.''

Devils 4, Panthers 1

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Martin Brodeur made 35 saves and Sergei Nemchinov scored twice in the final four minutes as New Jersey beat Florida to sweep the best-of-seven series.

Patrik Elias and Scott Niedermayer also scored to help the Devils advance to the second round for the first time since 1997.

Pavel Bure beat Brodeur on a power play to give Florida a 1-0 lead at 5:19 of the first period. Elias tied it at 4:26 of the second period, and Niedermayer made it 2-1 with 4:58 left in the period. The Panthers are 1-12 in their last 13 playoff games.



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