Work in Sports
BUFFALO, New York (Ticker) -- Dominik Hasek can only do so much for the Buffalo Sabres.
Hasek stopped a penalty shot among 25 saves but got no support as the Philadelphia Flyers grabbed a stranglehold on their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with a 2-0 victory.
Rookie Brian Boucher quietly stopped 17 shots for his first playoff shutout, helping Philadelphia to a three games to none lead in front of a sellout crowd of 18,690 at HSBC Arena.
"I'm not really concerned about the shutout," Boucher said. "I am more happy about the win. We know we're not going to get many goals against this guy (Hasek). The way we played tonight was real patient."
John LeClair scored a power-play goal and Mark Recchi found an empty net for the Flyers, who are a victory away from winning their first playoff series since the 1997 Eastern Conference finals.
"We are really confident with our game," said Flyers center Keith Primeau. "We are confident with our system. We are confident with any five guys on the ice. We are confident with anybody killing penalties."
The Sabres, Stanley Cup runner-ups last year who were victimized by a controversial goal in Game Two on Friday, will try to avoid the sweep on Tuesday, when they host Game Four.
"Game Four is the game we have to win," Sabres left wing Geoff Sanderson said. "That is our focus right now."
Only two teams have rebounded from 3-0 deficits in a best-of-seven series -- the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and 1975 New York Islanders.
"I think with our goaltender, it's a very good possiblity," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said.
"Our goal is to win the series. I know you're going to walk away shaking your head. We've won eight games in a row in the playoffs."
Hasek was his typical sensational self at times, but Buffalo's offense sustained little pressure against a stifling defense. The Sabres recorded no more than six shots in a period and kept their series goal total at three.
Ruff complimented Flyers coach Roger Neilson, who is away from the team while recovering from cancer treatment.
"I said this morning that the system that Roger has put in place there, if you are not patient and take what you get and get out to an early lead, you don't get them to open up at all," Ruff said.
"It's hard work playing defense," LeClair said. "Everybody wants to score goals. It's tough blocking shots, getting pucks out, working along the boards."
Buffalo has scored fewer than three goals in eight straight playoff games, dating to last year's Stanley Cup Finals against Dallas.
Boucher was rarely tested, even in the final two minutes after captain Michael Peca hit Kent Manderville with a crushing check and in the closing seconds after Hasek skated to the bench for an extra attacker.
A native of Rhode Island, the 23-year-old Boucher has a 109 minute, 20 second shutout string, dating to Game Two after posting the first playoff whitewash by a rookie since Buffalo's Steve Shields in 1997.
Boucher took over the starting role from former Stanley Cup goalie John Vanbiesbrouck two-thirds of the way through the season.
"We've seen such tremendous growth from this young man over the course of the season," Flyers interim coach Craig Ramsay said. "He wants to be the guy. He believes in what he is doing."
LeClair scored on the power play with 4 1/2 minutes left in the first period. Rookie Simon Gagne slid a pass from behind the net and, with Hasek moving from the right to the left goalpost, LeClair put the puck through his pads.
"Primeau did a good job keeping it going along the boards and when Gags got it behind the net, the kid made a nice pass back short side," LeClair said. "I had a lot of net. It was just a great pass by Simon."
It was LeClair's second goal of the series, 33rd career in the postseason and 26th in the playoffs with the Flyers. He had seven with the Montreal Canadiens.
Sabres right wing Vaclav Varada had been in the penalty box for charging, bringing the second-best power play in the NHL during the regular season on the ice.
The Flyers were 1-for-6 with the man advantage in this game and are 5-for-17 in the series. Buffalo is 1-for-10 after an 0-for-3 performance.
"We always said if we get a power-play goal a night we are going to be in every game," LeClair said. "The power play has been working for us and our peanlty killing has been terrific. Special teams is going to be large throughout the whole playoffs. If we keep that up, we are going to be in good shape."
Recchi's goal with 38 seconds left was Philadelphia's first in the series that did not come on the power play. The Flyers have not scored at 5-on-5.
Less than four minutes before LeClair's goal, Hasek stopped defenseman Eric Desjardins on a penalty shot, getting his stick between his pads to block a snapper.
Peter White drew the penalty shot when he was dragged down by defenseman Alexei Zhitnik but was forced to leave after slamming the back of his head on the ice.
One of the biggest hits of the night came from Philadelphia's Keith Jones, who checked Hasek for the second straight game and was called for roughing.
Hasek, the acrobatic five-time Vezina Trophy winner, was at his best in the second period, when he stopped all 12 shots. With four minutes left in the period, he stoned rookie defenseman Andy Delmore on a 2-on-1.
"No one guy is going to win it for us," Ruff said. "We need to do it as a team."
The goaltenders played in front of new nets, two days after LeClair put a shot through the mesh in Philadelphia. Officials called it a goal, allowing the Flyers to tie it at 1-1 on their way to a 2-1 win.
"That controvery had nothing to do with us," LeClair said. "As far as we are concerned, we were up 2-0. We know we got a break and let's move on."