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Penguins Sabres rue bad breaks and bad luck

Sunday, April 29, 2001

By Dejan Kovacevic, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Dominik Hasek could have cursed his rotten luck, slammed his stick to the ice and skated off the rink.

It had to be tempting.

He was beaten twice on 14 shots in the Buffalo Sabres' 3-1 loss to the Penguins in Game 2 of their Stanley Cup playoff series yesterday at HSBC Arena. And, most frustrating, both pucks which eluded him -- the third goal went into an empty net -- were off target.

"It's really a shame," Hasek said. "We all worked really hard. I think we were the better team. If they don't get lucky on both goals, it's a different game."

As it was, the Penguins were counting their blessings while bolting Buffalo with a 2-0 series lead.

The game's first goal, by center Robert Lang, came at 10:11 of the second period.

Left winger Martin Straka blazed across the blue line and left a drop pass for Lang, who skated to the top of the right circle and unleashed a powerful wrist shot between the legs of Sabres defenseman James Patrick.

"It's a sort of half-screen, so Dominik doesn't really get a full look at the puck," Lang said. "It's basically a surprise. You're trying to shoot it when he doesn't expect it. If he sees it, he's going to stop it. He's too good a goalie not to stop it."

Hasek didn't stop it, but it clanged off the post to his right. And, when Hasek fell backward to recover, the puck ricocheted off the back of his right leg and crawled just across the goal line.

"I went to look for it," Hasek said. "It was already in."

As if to underscore the lopsided fortune of the day, the Sabres tied the score 4:33 later on center Stu Barnes' perfectly placed wrist shot, only to have the Penguins win the game on another ugly goal at 8:09 of the third.

Straka started the play again, collecting the puck on the left boards in Buffalo's zone. Two Sabres darted toward him, so he whipped a cross-ice pass to defenseman Andrew Ference at the top of the right circle.

Ference was wide open.

"I was totally committed to being that deep in the zone, so if Marty doesn't have that great vision to see me over there ... it was just an awesome pass," Ference said. "And I had lots of time. Maybe that's why my shot was so bad."

That's a generous assessment.

Ference teed up a slap shot but mostly whiffed on the puck, sending it to the net with no great velocity, end over end, and ticketed to go wide right.

How wide?

"Probably a foot," Ference said. "And I shot it so weakly I don't even know if it would have made it to the goal line. Just a total shank. I was aiming left, and it went ... wherever it went."

Hasek had moved forward to challenge Ference, as did Buffalo defenseman Jason Woolley, and the puck sailed past both of them.

Near the Sabres' crease, Patrick was doing his best to cover Penguins center Mario Lemieux.

"I know how much they like that passing play at the side of the net," Patrick said. "If my partner is taking away the shooting lane, which he did, I'm going to go to the guy at the net."

The puck skipped off Patrick's right hip, changed direction and landed softly in the center of the goal.

"Obviously, after it goes in, you wonder if you could have done something different," Patrick said. "That's hockey."

Hasek, too, was left shaking his head.

"It's disappointing, but I feel much better than after Game 1," he said. "I feel like we really worked hard, played our system. There is nothing to be ashamed of. We just didn't score goals, and they got a couple of lucky ones. There's nothing really you can do about that."

The Penguins, naturally, viewed their goals as more than good fortune.

"Hey, you have to believe in yourself," Lang said. "It only takes one shot to score a goal, you know. It doesn't matter what kind of shot."

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