Class time: Sabres look to rebound
Posted: Sunday June 13, 1999 06:34 PM
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- The Buffalo Sabres admire the Dallas Stars, maybe too much. The Stars have taken a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 Stanley Cup finals, and the Sabres have collected more pointers than points.
"We can learn from them," Buffalo center Curtis Brown said Sunday, the day after center Joe Nieuwendyk's two goals and the Stars' defense conspired to smother the Sabres and quiet the first Buffalo crowd to witness a Cup final in 24 years.
"What they do so well is just get the puck through," Brown said. "By the time it gets to the net they have traffic there and the rebounds pop out. I've seen them score a few that way."
The Sabres saw Dallas do a lot of impressive things at both ends of the rink as the Stars made Nieuwendyk's goals stand in a 2-1 win Saturday.
The relatively young and inexperienced Sabres watched and learned as the Cup finals became a classroom conducted by Stars coach Ken Hitchcock and his veteran players.
"They're the best club in the league defensively," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "They don't give up a lot of opportunities. Their forwards backchecked as well as any in the league."
Buffalo's power play sputtered and except for goaltender Dominik Hasek, its best players all but disappeared. Most of the Sabres' shots never reached Dallas goalie Ed Belfour and only one got past him.
"They were the better team, I'm not going to sugar-coat it," Ruff said. "They played better in their end, they played better in our end. They had more scoring chances and their special teams were better. Our team has faced adversity before. We'll bounce back."
The Sabres don't have a lot of room to bounce. Another loss this Tuesday would put them in a 3-1 hole with the series returning to Reunion Arena.
"We have to limit their time down low with the puck and try to keep it out of our end," Sabres defenseman Rhett Warrener said. "With Joe Nieuwendyk, if we can give him less room and less time with the puck, that's going to be a lot better for us."
Buffalo's lone goal was scored during a delayed penalty call against Dallas and broke a scoreless tie in the second period. Fans who had waited for a shot at the Cup since Buffalo's six-game loss to Philadelphia in 1975 roared.
But the Stars smothered the Sabres and their crowd.
The Sabres could not make their normally potent power play work. They came up empty while skating with the extra man eight times and managed just one shot in their first five power plays.
The Stars had only two power plays, yet outshot the Sabres 29-12 in the game. They also blocked 19 attempted shots by Buffalo while Belfour was forced to handle just 12.
"We didn't get many power-play opportunities and we need to generate some offense there," Ruff said. "They block the shots, and the key here is to get the shots through somehow. In the first period I think they blocked nine of our shots and that eliminates a lot of offense."
Miroslav Satan, the Sabres' leading scorer during the regular season who had returned to form after an ankle injury in the first round of the playoffs, got off only two shots in Game 3.
"I do feel the pressure and I'll try to respond the best way I can," Satan said. "But right now there's not too much room and our whole team is having problems creating anything in their zone. That's the key why we had only 12 shots."
The drought led to the Sabres' first playoff loss at home after seven victories at Marine Midland Arena.
"One thing we've been able to do is use our day off well and learn some things from the tape and come back focused," Sabres captain Michael Peca said.
Buffalo will have to shoot quicker and more accurately to win.
"It's a combination of trying to get the shots off a little quicker and making some better decisions," Peca said. "Overall it's getting the shots off quicker and not winding up for the big slap shots, just snapping it through."
Peca said the Sabres also must re-establish their forechecking and work together better.
"The forwards have to come back and be a lot more available for the defensemen," Peca said. "Our 'D' have made a lot of good plays but we're not getting over the red line to give them an outlet."
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