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Penguins Penguins Report: May 3, 2001

Thursday, May 03, 2001

By Dejan Kovacevic, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

LOOKING AHEAD

Game 5: Penguins vs. Buffalo Sabres, 1:08 p.m. Saturday, HSBC Arena. TV, radio: WTAE; WWSW-FM (94.5), WBGG-AM (970).

PENGUINS NOTEBOOK

The Penguins scratched LW Josef Beranek (arm), LW Steve McKenna, LW Krzysztof Oliwa, D Frantisek Kucera and G Jean-Sebastien Aubin. Beranek is out indefinitely. RW Jaromir Jagr returned to the lineup after missing two games because of a shoulder injury.

C Mario Lemieux had two assists last night, but he had no shots on goal and failed to score for the third consecutive game. He has a goal and four assists in the series and has yet to produce more than two points in any playoff game. Lemieux, who has been bottled up in the Penguins' end for much of this round, said the Sabres have "figured out the left-wing lock" and added that the Penguins will have to devise a new strategy in Game 5. The Penguins have employed the lock with terrific results since March 25, but the Sabres have found a way to hit gaps in the system with their speed and by banking the puck softly behind the Penguins' defensemen into the attacking zone. Asked what it will take to generate more than the 17 shots the Penguins sent toward Sabres G Dominik Hasek last night, Lemieux smiled and replied, "Ask the coaches."

D Darius Kasparaitis concurred that the Sabres' strategic adjustment has allowed them to take over the series: "They've changed the rules. In the first two games, we played great defense. Now, they're playing that way."

LW Martin Straka's penalty shot at 8:07 of the third period was the fourth in Penguins playoff history, the third to fail. Only Jagr has scored on one in the postseason, beating Rangers G John Vanbiesbrouck May 11, 1992. As Straka started in, Hasek charged out, effectively taking away Straka's option of simply skating in and taking a shot. And as Straka got close, Hasek bolted backward into his crease, slid to the left with his leg pads stacked and easily stuffed Straka's backhand try. "I wanted to shoot low at first, but he didn't give me any room, so I changed my mind and went to the backhand," Straka said. "He was there, but I think if I get it up, it's in. I mishandled it." Straka was asked if he would prefer a power play to a penalty shot in that situation. "I would rather have Mario take the penalty shot."

G Johan Hedberg had his worst showing of these playoffs, allowing five goals for the first time since giving up five in his second NHL game March 17 at Tampa. He was particularly displeased with a soft wraparound by Sabres LW Jean-Pierre Dumont 1:28 into the game and an ugly rebound he allowed that set up C Stu Barnes' winning goal at 4:44 of the third. Hedberg finished with 23 saves. "This is where you build character, to come back from a tough loss," he said. "You can't lose confidence. We've got a couple of days to maybe clear our heads and get ready for the next one."

The Penguins had given up only two third-period goals in their first eight playoff games, but they have allowed three in each of the past two games. Last night, the Penguins mustered just three shots on Hasek in the third period, including Straka's penalty shot. "We have a lot of guys getting a lot of ice time, but I don't know if it's so much that they have four lines running us down," D Bob Boughner said. "They're just taking it to us in our own end. That's why we don't have any energy."

The Penguins' season-ticket prices will go up next season for all seats, the increases ranging from 9.6 percent to 13.3 percent. Per-game costs of full-season plans for Igloo seats will go from $100 to $110, A and B levels from $62 to $68, C level from $52 to $57, D level from $35 to $39, balcony from $25 to $28 and rear balcony from $15 to $17. Per-game costs of plans for 20 games or more for A and B levels will go from $68 to $75, C level from $56 to $62, D level from $38 to $42, balcony from $25 to $28 and rear balcony from $15 to $17. Prices for single-game tickets have not been determined.

SABRES NOTEBOOK

The Sabres scratched LW Erik Rasmussen (shoulder), D Jay McKee (concussion), C Chris Taylor, RW Rob Ray, LW Eric Boulton, D Brian Campbell and D Doug Houda. Rasmussen skated with the team yesterday, but his status for Game 5 is unknown. McKee will miss Game 5 and possibly more.

G Dominik Hasek shrugged off the way he stopped Penguins LW Martin Straka on a penalty shot at 8:07 of the third period. "I know Martin has good hands, but I thought I could beat him," Hasek said. "I knew he was going to make a move." That save came with the Sabres holding a 3-2 lead. Coach Lindy Ruff was asked how critical that moment was for his club. "Look up 'enormous,' and put it in your article tomorrow," he said. "It was a huge time of the game for us. If they score, you probably see us sag. If he makes the save, it lifts the whole bench. I thought we really came out after that."

Hasek, on the way the series has shifted: "We deserve to have it tied right now. We've controlled the play for these last two games for everything except the first 10 minutes of Game 3."

C Stu Barnes' winning goal at 4:44 of the third period was no small effort. RW Donald Audette skated the length of the rink and pulled Penguins D Darius Kasparaitis wide before flicking a puck toward G Johan Hedberg. The rebound popped out to Barnes, who was sandwiched between D Ian Moran and RW Aleksey Morozov, but somehow still managed to chip in a 15-foot shot off the far post. "I figured for sure I'd missed it," Barnes said. "I fell down, and I heard it hit the pipe and everything was quiet, so I figured it went up over the glass or something." Barnes had no goals in 15 games before netting three in the past three games. "I've said all along that stuff doesn't interest me. I'll take a Cup over personal statistics."

The Sabres didn't exactly treat Penguins RW Jaromir Jagr with kid gloves, but neither did they appear to take any cheap shots aimed at his injured shoulder. "If you have a chance to take the body -- not just on him, but on anybody -- you've got to take it," D Alexei Zhitnik said. "But doing things on purpose just to hurt him more or try to injure him ... I don't think that's very sportsmanlike."

Ruff didn't have the impression that the Penguins were going to worry much about Hedberg or any other facet of their game come Saturday: "I think Pittsburgh has some confidence coming back to Buffalo. They won two games in our building, and they've got a lot of confidence in their goaltender."

MINOR-LEAGUE REPORT

Wednesday's result

WILKES-BARRE/SCRANTON (7-4) did not play. The Baby Penguins open the best-of-seven Western Conference final against Hershey at Wilkes-Barre's First Union Arena. The Baby Penguins were 7-3 against the Bears during the regular season. In their 3-2 overtime victory Wednesday to eliminate Philadelphia, D Chris Kelleher originally was credited with the winning goal. But a review determined that C Milan Kraft deflected Kelleher's shot, giving Kraft two goals in that game and an AHL-best 12 for the playoffs.

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