Instead of laboring under the responsibility of being a team captain, as many young players have done, Peca has thrived. In a game against the Penguins on March 15, he was shadowing Jaromir Jagr in the second period of a scoreless tie when Jagr, who had been shackled by Peca in a 2-1 Pittsburgh victory the day before, started snarling. "He said I was the worst captain and we were never going to win anything as long as I was captain," Peca recalls. "I went back to the bench and thought, He's wrong. I am going to be a great leader, and we are going to win." In the third period Peca had two goals and an assist, and the Sabres won 3-0. "I think that showed the guys they can count on me," he says.
After throttling Philadelphia's 6'4" 235-pound Eric Lindros during the opening playoff round, Peca helped limit the Canadiens' shifty center Saku Koivu to a goal and an assist in the second round. During Game 3 in Montreal, Peca scored the first two goals of his playoff career, including the winner in double overtime. "He's not the rah-rah type, but he sets the tone for us," says enforcer Rob Ray. "He's a guy you could see being a captain here for a long time."