Penguins have had plenty of success against Hasek
Updated: Tuesday April 24, 2001 11:56 PM
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- If there is one team the Dominator does not dominate, it is the Pittsburgh Penguins.
No wonder Buffalo goaltender Dominik Hasek can't be thrilled about a second-round matchup with the Penguins, who eliminated the Washington Capitals for the sixth time since 1991 by winning 4-3 in overtime Monday night.
The Eastern Conference semifinal series starts Thursday night in Buffalo, where the Penguins were 2-0 this season. Game 2 will be Saturday in Buffalo before the series shifts to Pittsburgh on Monday and Wednesday.
Hasek may be a five-time Vezina Trophy winner and a two-time NHL most valuable player, but he is only 11-15-5 against the Penguins -- 1-2 this season, allowing 10 goals on 71 shots.
The last time Hasek faced them, he was pulled from a 5-3 Penguins victory in Buffalo on Dec. 26 -- the day before Mario Lemieux returned -- after allowing three goals on 16 goals.
No wonder Penguins rookie coach Ivan Hlinka, normally not one to issue bulletin board-material quotes about opponents, said, "I think we've got the players that can beat Hasek."
Hlinka should know. He coached the Hasek-led Czech Republic team that won the gold medal in the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, the first to feature NHL players.
Hlinka now coaches a number of the goal-scorers from that Czech team, including five-time NHL scoring champion Jaromir Jagr, Martin Straka and Robert Lang. Jan Hrdina, who alternates with Kevin Stevens on the top line, also is from the Czech Republic.
"I don't know if Craig [Patrick, the Penguins general manager] does it that way, but maybe he has all the Czechs here so he can beat Hasek," defenseman Ian Moran said.
Straka scored the game-winner Monday, stealing a bouncing puck from Sergei Gonchar in the Capitals' end and beating goalie Olaf Kolzig at 13:04 of overtime -- the first time the Penguins have won a playoff series at home with an overtime goal.
Lang also scored as each member of the NHL's highest-scoring second line -- Straka, Lang and Alexei Kovalev -- had a goal. Kovalev scored on a slap shot with one second left in the second period.
No doubt the Penguins' abundance of scorers is a concern to Sabres going into the first Buffalo-Pittsburgh playoff series since 1979. The Penguins not only have Mario Lemieux and Jagr, and their 11 NHL scoring titles, each player on their second line outscored every Sabres player during the season.
Buffalo's only Top 25 scorer, No. 24 Donald Audette (79 points), spent most of the season with Atlanta.
Still, the Penguins know how Hasek can single-handedly steal a series, as evidenced by his play when Buffalo reached the Stanley Cup finals in 1999.
"They're a big team, and quick," Kovalev said. "And they've got Hasek."
However, the Penguins have Lemieux, the driving force of the Penguins' elimination of Washington with four goals and his on-ice leadership.
It was Lemieux who sold the Penguins on altering their personality, abandoning their offense-at-all-costs style to play a safety-first system that limited the Capitals to 10 goals in six games.
"Give them credit," Capitals coach Ron Wilson said. "They matched our work ethic with their work ethic. For that team to totally change its philosophy so late in the season, hats off to Pittsburgh."
Lemieux also displayed unshakable confidence in rookie goalie Johan Hedberg, who had played only nine NHL games before stopping 151 of 161 shots in his first playoff series.
"He won it for us," Lemieux said.
What has been difficult for the Penguins is winning a second-round series.
This is the third consecutive season they have advanced to the second round by beating a higher-seeded team. However, they have won only once in the second round in five tries since last winning the Stanley Cup in 1992 -- in 1996, when they lost at home to Florida in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals.
"I think Mario is the difference this time," Straka said. "He's been unbelievable. He's won before, he's won Stanley Cups, and now he's trying to show us how to do it."