NHL PLAYOFFS Sabres slow Penguins, gain first win in series
Buffalo goalie Dominik Hasek preserved his team's Game 3 victory.
By TOM WILLIAMS
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
PITTSBURGH -- Whatever magic the Pittsburgh Penguins conjured up in jumping out to a 2-0 series lead against the Buffalo Sabres evaporated in Monday's heat at Mellon Arena.
After surviving a shaky first period, the Sabres pestered Pittsburgh with a swarming defense, then killed off a key third period power-play.
Buffalo then capped the night by scoring three third-period goals for a 4-1 victory in Game 3 of the best-of-7 Eastern Conference semifinal series.
"We didn't do the things we did in Buffalo," said Mario Lemieux of the Penguins' collapse in the third period.
"I thought we panicked a little bit too much with the puck," he added. "We made some bad decisions. When the other team senses that, they take over."
Untimely effort: Veteran defenseman Marc Bergevin, whose weak clearing effort led to the first Sabres goal, said he was frustrated, not with the loss, but with how poorly the Penguins played with the game on the line.
"If you play your game and you lose, at least you give it your best effort," Bergevin said. "Tonight, we just didn't [put forth] our best game. That was probably the worst [postseason] game we've played.
"We didn't play as a team and we didn't do what it took to get us this far in the playoffs. Hopefully, this will serve as a wake-up call."
Pittsburgh captain Jaromir Jagr missed his second game of the series with various injuries.
Assisted twice by his goalposts, Buffalo goalie Dominik Hasek lived up to his "Dominator" reputation by stopping the Penguins' final 10 shots after they took a 1-0 lead.
"Except for the first 10 minutes, defensively we played very well," said Hasek, who made 19 saves. "We were skating better, we won more battles and we had more chances.
"In the first 10 minutes they had a couple of good chances and fortunately for us they twice hit the post. After that, we completely dominated."
Familiar face: Former Penguins defenseman Jason Woolley scored the game-winner halfway through the third period after Doug Gilmour fed him a sharp pass to the side of the crease.
"Dougie made a helluva pass," Woolley said. "Eventually you're rewarded for hard work and tonight it paid off for us."
Three minutes later, the Sabres sealed the win when Miroslav Satan scored on a wraparound. Pittsburgh defenseman Darius Kasparaitis fell while trying to stop right winger Maxim Afinogenov.
Afinogenov passed to the streaking Satan who raced behind the net and beat Penguins goalie Johan Hedberg to the open side.
"I just got lucky that I beat him," Satan said. "In the second period, we shifted into high gear and it paid off for us."
In the final minute, James Patrick scored an empty-net goal after the Penguins pulled Hedberg for most of the final three minutes.
Pittsburgh coach Ivan Hlinka said his rookie goaltender was not to blame for the loss.
"I think Hedberg was the only player who was playing his game," Hlinka said.
Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said Hedberg "still made nine or 10 great saves. I don't see him cracking."
The Penguins scored on their first shot of the second period. Moments after Woolley was whistled for slashing, Kevin Stevens cashed in on the Penguins' man-advantage.
Defenseman Andrew Ference started the play when he fired the puck from the point. About 6 feet in front of Hasek, Stevens tipped the puck into the net.
Former Penguins forward Stu Barnes had an excellent opportunity to tie the score on a breakaway, but Hedberg slid forward and knocked the puck away before Barnes could get off a shot.
Another chance: Buffalo came close again when Rhett Warrener had an open shot at the end of a 2-on-1 break, but Hedberg gloved the puck.
A weak Penguins clearing attempt led to Buffalo's tying goal in the late stages of the second period. Patrick pounced on Bergevin's clearing attempt and fed Curtis Brown in the slot. Brown's shot deflected off Ference's skate past Hedberg.
"In the first two games, the breaks went our way," Penguins forward Alexei Kovalev said. "Tonight, they went their way."