2001 Stanley Cup Finals
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Dominate this!

Penguins have had plenty of success against Hasek

Click here for more on this story
Posted: Tuesday April 24, 2001 5:04 PM
Updated: Tuesday April 24, 2001 11:56 PM

  Dominik Hasek Dominik Hasek is only 11-15-5 against the Penguins. Rick Stewart/Allsport

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.

Sabres brace for meeting against potent Penguins
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- When Stu Barnes played left wing alongside Jaromir Jagr three years ago, there was one thing he learned quickly.

"I was basically trying to stay out of his way, to be honest with you," recalled Barnes, laughing after the Buffalo Sabres practice on Tuesday. "He's just a really talented player."

Funny, now Barnes and his Sabres teammates will be doing their utmost to get in the way of Jagr and the Pittsburgh Penguins during their second-round playoff series that opens in Buffalo on Thursday.

"It's going to be very tough," said Barnes, who has spent the last two seasons as Buffalo's most dependable center. "We're going to have to be at our very best defensively and offensively."

The Penguins, fresh off eliminating the higher-seeded Washington Capitals in their first-round series, enter the second round with a new-style defense and the same high-powered offense.

It begins with Jagr, who won the regular-season scoring title, and follows closely with Mario Lemieux, the Penguins owner who came out of retirement in late December and showed he hadn't lost a step.

Shut them down and there's Pittsburgh's second line of Robert Lang, Martin Straka and Alexei Kovalev to deal with.

While Pittsburgh has impressed many by buying into a new defensive scheme over the last few two months, the Sabres understand the key to victory is limiting the Penguins' offensive threats.

"It's almost impossible -- you know they're going to score some goals," Sabres goalie Dominik Hasek said. "But the question is how many?"

It's a question that makes this matchup intriguing.

The Sabres allowed the fewest goals in the regular season by using a stifling defense led by Hasek, who finished fourth with a 2.11 goals-against average and an NHL-best 11 shutouts.

The Penguins scored 281 goals this past season, second only to New Jersey, and Pittsburgh's top two lines combined for 205 of those goals.

The Sabres, who eliminated Philadelphia in six games in their first-round series, understand what they're up against.

"We can't change what makes us successful, and that's being a good defensive team with well-rounded scoring," defenseman Rhett Warrener said. "They're good offensively and they're playing better defensively. We worry about our game now and hope that it's good enough."

The Penguins are just as confident.

Looking down his lineup, Penguins coach Ivan Hlinka said: "I think we've got the players that can beat Hasek."

Pittsburgh stifled Washington, allowing only 10 goals, and received a remarkable first-round performance from rookie goaltender Johan Hedberg. And then there's the Lemieux factor.

"I think Mario is the difference," said Martin Straka, who scored the game-winner in Monday's decisive 4-3 overtime win over Washington. "He's been unbelievable. He's been showing us he's the guy."

The series is generating plenty of attention in the Czech Republic, which is well represented on both teams.

The Sabres have Hasek, forwards Miroslav Satan, Vaclav Varada and defenseman Richard Smehlik.

The Penguins' Czech natives are Jagr, Hrdina, Lang, Straka and Josef Beranek, all forwards. 
 
 

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."


 
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