Hasek, Sabres Push Bruins to Edge
By Bill Porter
BUFFALO, N.Y. – Dominik Hasek made 24 saves as the Buffalo Sabres beat the Boston Bruins, 3-0, on Friday night and moved within one victory of clinching their second-round series.
Alexei Zhitnik, Vaclav Varada and Michael Peca scored as the Sabres took a 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference series and improved their record to a playoff-best 7-1.
Seventh-seeded Buffalo swept the No. 2 Ottawa Senators in the first round and now can finish off the Bruins in Boston on Sunday and become the first team in the playoffs to move on to the conference finals.
Two of the last three games would be played in Boston if the Bruins were to survive seven games.
Hasek made 10 saves in each of the second and third periods as he broke the team record for playoff shutouts set by Bob Sauve in 1983.
Zhitnik and Varada both scored in the second period. Peca's short-handed goal, his first of the season, capped the scoring with 8:21 to play.
The Sabres have lost five of six playoffs to the Bruins, but now Buffalo has won seven of the last eight playoff games against Boston. That includes the Sabres' sweep of the Bruins in 1993, the last time the teams met in the playoffs.
Boston's season will end soon if history is any indication. In all 18 previous series the Bruins trailed 3-1 they never came back to win. Boston managed to win a second game after trailing 3-1 only three times and never tied any of the series.
The Sabres built 3-1 leads in two previous series and won both times in the fifth game, beating Chicago in 1975 and Philadelphia in the first round last year.
The Sabres, whose forechecking game and fans both were taken out of the first two periods of Buffalo's 3-2 comeback win in Game 3, brought both back with a vengeance Friday.
Buffalo scored the first goal on the power play when Zhitnik angled across center ice with the puck and slid it to Curtis Brown at the blue-line boards. Brown's cross-ice pass connected with defenseman Jason Woolley and Zhitnik tipped in Woolley's blast from the point at 8:20.
It was the third playoff goal for Zhitnik and sixth assist for Woolley. The goal gave Zhitnik a measure of revenge after the Bruins suggested they might target the Sabres defenseman for his hit from behind on Bruins captain Ray Bourque in Buffalo's win in Game 2.
The goal by Varada, his third of the playoffs, came with 17 seconds left in the second when Varada turned with a pass from Dixon Ward and launched a slap shot from the faceoff circle to the left of Dafoe. The low-angle shot beat the goalie to the far side.
The Sabres have scored on the power play in all eight of their playoff games this year.
Peca's score, his third of the playoffs and first shorthanded goal of the season, made it 3-0. Peca raced after a loose puck that caromed off the boards and shoveled it in at 11:39.
Second-year Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff's playoff record improved to 17-6 (.739), including 10-5 last season when the team advanced to the conference finals and lost to Washington 4-2. Ruff is one of nine NHL coaches with a minimum of 20 playoff games and a winning percentage of .600 or better.
The Sabres cracked Boston's tight defensive coverages for 16 shots on goaltender Byron Dafoe in the first period but couldn't score.
The Bruins nearly scored late in the first when Hasek skated out of his crease after a loose puck and Steve Heinze whacked a backhander at the net. The puck was deflected wide by Peca, who stopped the puck on one occasion in the series against Ottawa.
The Bruins pressured with 41 seconds of a 5-on-3 in the second period. Hasek came through with two saves, including his gloving of a wrist shot from the slot by Steve Heinze.
The Sabres, best among playoff teams at killing penalties at home, stymied seven Bruins power plays.
© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press