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Penguins Barnes shows winning hand again

Sunday, May 06, 2001

By Dejan Kovacevic, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Stu Barnes finished what he started.

Before Barnes scored the winning goal in overtime yesterday, before the Buffalo Sabres and the 18,690 fans jammed into HSBC Arena celebrated the 3-2 victory against the Penguins in Game 5 of their Stanley Cup playoff series, the puck had to travel nearly the full 200 feet of the ice rink.

And it got its initial push from Barnes, who made a steal behind the Buffalo net and cleared the zone by executing a simple breakout up the right-wing boards.

"I know the team expects me to score some goals from time to time," Barnes said. "But, for me, the most important thing is playing at both ends of the ice. That's what I take pride in."

His pass reached right winger Donald Audette at the Sabres' blue line, and Audette waited for an instant to lure Penguins defenseman Hans Jonsson toward him. Jonsson took the bait, and Audette chipped a pass toward the center circle.

Left winger Jean-Pierre Dumont's eyes widened as he raced toward it.

"At first, I thought maybe it was a chance for a breakaway," Dumont said.

Bob Boughner, Jonsson's partner, made sure it wasn't. He tied up Dumont's stick and cut off his speed. But Dumont kept his skates churning, and he managed to lug the puck -- and Boughner -- into the Penguins' end before pulling up near the top of the right circle.

"J-P worked unbelievably hard," Barnes said. "The whole way up the ice, he went hard."

Upon stopping, Dumont's first thought was to lift a pass toward Audette, who was charging toward the net. But Jonsson came back to take away that option.

Then Dumont spotted Barnes, who was trailing the play, out of the corner of his eye.

"I saw Donald and I saw Stu," Dumont said. "But Donald was covered, and Stu was much closer to me, right behind me. So, I fed it to Stu."

Dumont flicked the puck backward, and his pass was caught by Barnes no more than a yard inside the blue line.

Help for the Penguins' defensemen was nowhere in sight. After making the first pass of the sequence, Barnes had hustled past all three of the Penguins' forwards -- Robert Lang, Martin Straka and Alexei Kovalev -- to put himself in position to score.

"He was all alone," Audette said. "You don't want that if you're the defense. The late man is always the most dangerous."

Barnes' momentum kept him gliding forward as he settled the puck for what he hoped would be a hard slap shot.

In his mind, he fell a bit short in that regard.

"To be honest, it was kind of a knuckleball, end over end," Barnes said of the shot. "It might even have had some arc on it."

If it did, there was a pot of gold at the end of that rainbow. The puck sailed through a screen from Dumont and nicked the pipe as it hit the top right corner behind Penguins goaltender Johan Hedberg 8:34 into overtime.

Barnes wasn't sure immediately that his shot had gone in.

"It hit the bar and sounded nice, but it really wasn't a very pretty shot, so I wasn't sure what happened to it," he said. "Then everyone got excited, and I knew it was in."

Barnes hadn't scored in 15 games before planting a perfect shot to the same corner behind Hedberg in Game 2. Since then, he has emerged as the dominant forward in the series, netting four goals, including two which have decided games.

But Barnes isn't exactly letting it get to his head. When it comes to heroics, he's as stoic as they come.

"I don't think much about stuff like that," Barnes said. "Yeah, I hadn't scored in a while down the stretch there, and I know that's important. But that's not what I think about. Really, it isn't. I think about trying to find a way to help my team win any way possible. If I get a big goal, that's fine."

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