'We want the Leafs'
Sabres reach conference final with 3-2 win over Bruins
Posted: Wednesday May 19, 1999 01:27 AM
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- It's final. Buffalo and Toronto will meet in the playoffs for the first time to decide who will face off for the Stanley Cup.
The Sabres advanced to the Eastern Conference final against division rival Toronto with a 3-2 win over the Boston Bruins in Game 6 on Tuesday night.
The fans chanted "We want the Leafs!" as the Sabres smothered the Bruins' offense and wound down a relatively easy night for injured goaltender Dominik Hasek.
The Sabres will play the Maple Leafs in Game 1 on Sunday in Toronto. It marks the first appearance by a Canadian team in a conference final since 1994, when Vancouver ousted Toronto.
"It's going to cost me a lot in tickets," said Sabres defenseman and Toronto native Jason Woolley.
Like Woolley, Peca grew up as a Maple Leafs fan. "Jason and I were talking about the Toronto fans celebrating and honking their horns after they won the other night," Peca said. "That used to be us."
Hasek showed no ill effects of an old groin injury that flared up in Buffalo's loss in Game 5, but the Sabres didn't let the Bruins test him too much. "My groin is pretty stable," Hasek said. "It's still not 100 percent OK, but it was good enough to win."
Boston had the flow going its way in the third, launching 13 shots. "Dom had a fabulous third period," Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. "He steadied the ship."
Goalie Byron Dafoe made 18 saves for Boston, which lost three straight after winning the first game at home. The Bruins have never come back to win a series after being down 3-1. The Sabres have won their last two playoff series against Boston, including a sweep in 1993.
"It's nice to win two rounds, but our goal is to win the next round," said Hasek, whose team got off to a fast start and gained a territorial advantage for two periods with physical play and speed. "There's a long way to go."
Buffalo reached the Eastern Conference final for the second straight year. The Sabres lost to the Washington Capitals in six games last season. Toronto advanced to the conference final for the first time since 1994 by wrapping up the series against Pittsburgh in six games with a 4-3 overtime victory on Monday night.
"We're happy with the win but disappointed about what we did on defense in the last two minutes," Hasek said.
The Buffalo victory ended one of the more contentious series, characterized by heavy hits and verbal jabs. Bruins coach Pat Burns and Ruff complained about hits on their players and traded barbs through the media.
"It was probably their best game of the series," Burns said Tuesday. "They didn't make too many mistakes. We made a couple, and that made the difference."
Buffalo emphasized defense in Game 6. The Sabres muscled the Bruins forwards off the puck and allowed few good scoring chances. When the Bruins did get the occasional hot shot, Hasek was there.
Hasek complained about the groin injury a day after allowing four goals in two periods in Boston's 5-3 win in Game 5. Ruff, concerned as much about Hasek's poor play as his lack of mobility in that game, pulled the NHL's two-time defending MVP.
"We have no concerns about Dominik," said Sabres forward Dixon Ward. "He told us he was ready, and he looked like he was dancing around out there tonight."
Buffalo scored the first goal in five of the series' six games. Peca's goal, his fourth of the playoffs, came on Buffalo's fifth shot 4:49 into the game with Bruins center Shawn Bates in the penalty box for holding the stick.
The Sabres have scored at least one power-play goal in all 10 of their playoff games. Their longest streak of power-play goals in the regular season was five games.
Boston answered with a power-play goal at 12:49 with Dean Sylvester out for interference. Heinze scored his fourth playoff goal with a shot that deflected in off Hasek's skate.
Primeau regained the lead for the Sabres, scoring with 21/2 minutes left in the first period. Dafoe turned aside Geoff Sanderson's shot and Primeau fired in the rebound over a sprawling Sanderson from a nearly impossible angle near the goal line.
Brown slipped in behind the Boston defense and popped in Erik Ramsussen's pass from the corner for a 3-1 lead two minutes into the second period.
The crowd booed Ray Bourque every time the Bruins defenseman touched the puck. Bourque, the all-time scoring leader against the Sabres in the playoffs, finished the series with four assists, including one Tuesday.
"We took a step and won a series," said 20-year veteran Bourque, whose team hadn't won a playoff series since 1994. "Hopefully next year we can keep growing and do better."
Peca leads Buffalo in points with four goals and seven assists, and has at least one point in eight of the 10 playoff games. Second-year coach Ruff is 18-7 in the playoffs, including last season's trip to the conference final.
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