Wild and Woolley
Overtime goal gives underdog Sabres 3-2 win over Stars
Posted: Wednesday June 23, 1999 01:49 AM
DALLAS (CNN/SI) -- Dominik Hasek is considered the goaltender most likely to steal a big game in the playoffs. He did just that in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals.
Jason Woolley left the bench, grabbed the puck and scored the winning goal at 15:30 of overtime and the Buffalo Sabres, kept in the game by Hasek's brilliance, seized home-ice advantage by beating the Stars 3-2 in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals Tuesday night.
Hasek saved 35 shots and kept the Stars to only one power-play conversion in 10 opportunities in the Sabres' first Stanley Cup game in 24 years.
"Great? We're used to that. We see him do that all year," teammate Michael Peca said of the two-time NHL MVP and 1998 Olympic star.
"I didn't get much chance to do much the whole game," Woolley said. "I snuck up on them a little bit and Curtis made a great pass. In overtime, you just want to shoot. It was a great opportunity for our team to go up 1-0."
Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said, "Woolley joined the play late, was wide open and nobody picked him up. He just one-timed it."
Ruff had another reason to celebrate.
"The East has been swept the last three years. We just won one for the East," he said, pumping his fist.
Colorado in 1996 and Detroit the last two years won the NHL title without losing a game in the finals.
Game 2 will be Thursday night in Dallas before the series shifts to Buffalo on Saturday.
The Sabres, who had 14 fewer regular-season victories than the Stars, were outshot 23-9 over the first two periods. But they trailed only 1-0 entering the third period mostly because Hasek refused to fold, except for a tying goal by Jere Lehtinen in the final minute of regulation when Dallas had an extra skater and Brett Hull's first Stanley Cup finals goal.
Shaking off the rust from an eight-day layoff, Hasek's refusal to let the game get out of hand allowed the Sabres to finally mount an offense in the third period and take a 2-1 lead on goals only 5:04 apart by Stu Barnes and Wayne Primeau.
"I thought as the game went on, we started to come on," Ruff said. "In the third period, for the longest time I think we gave them only one shot. We were sloppy in the first two periods. We came on in the third."
The goals seemed to deflate the Stars' confidence -- they were 5-0 in the playoffs when leading after two periods -- and a towel-waving crowd of 17,001 watching the first final-round championship game in Dallas sports history.
"We probably started to protect a little bit in the third period. But it's hard to be very critical of our hockey team," Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said.
But what seemed to be an unbeatable combination, the Sabres with a lead late in a playoff game with the game's best goaltender in the net, wasn't.
Repeatedly rushing the net in the frantic final few minutes of a period that threatened to dramatically swing the momentum of the series, Hasek moved slightly to his right and out of the crease as the puck went behind the net.
That allowed Mike Modano, one of just two Stars remaining from the franchise's last Stanley Cup team in Minnesota in 1991, to throw it in front of the net and onto Lehtinen's stick for his eighth and biggest goal of the postseason with 49 seconds left in regulation.
The sigh of relief emanating from north Texas probably could be heard to the Oklahoma border.
About 15 minutes of playing time later, the arena went eerily quiet as Woolley scored the kind of opportunistic goal that often decides such games.
Woolley's goal was his fourth of the playoffs and resulted not just from the Dallas defense's negligence in picking him up, but Brown's ability to see him skating into scoring position.
The Sabres now can win the first Stanley Cup in their history by winning all of their games in Marine Midland Arena, where they are 7-0 in the playoffs.
Tuesday's setting seemed unusual for a Stanley Cup finals -- deep in the heart and heat of Texas in early June, with an outside temperature of 90 -- but the first goal came from one of hockey's familiar faces.
Hull, a renowned scorer who at age 34 has transformed from a stubborn one-way player into one who willingly checks and hits, beat Hasek between the pads with a slap shot from the high slot at 10:17 of the first.
The power-play goal came with one second left in Miroslav Satan's boarding penalty. The scouting report on Hasek is the only way to beat him consistently is up high, but this shot squirted through a tiny gap between Hasek's red-and-white pads.
"We had a shaky first 10 minutes, but we had a long (eight-day) layoff," Woolley said. "Let's not forgot how nervous everyone was."
The Stars, despite getting eight power plays in regulation and two more in overtime, could beat him only once more in a 76-minute game that was one of the most thrilling, and unpredictable, openers in recent Stanley Cup history.
Dallas dominated the first two periods, outshooting Buffalo 23-9 and neutralizing Buffalo's speed advantage by constantly keeping the puck in the Sabres' zone and dumping it out when the Sabres tried to attack.
The Stars squandered an excellent chance to take a commanding 2-0 lead by not scoring during a four-minute power play resulting from James Patrick's double-minor high-sticking penalty at 12:46 of the first. It began a trend that continued all night.
Stu Barnes finally ended Buffalo's shutout at 8:33 of the third. He was held by former teammate Brian Skrudland in front of the net, allowing Buffalo to pull Hasek and rush an extra attacker on the net. But before play was stopped, Barnes rammed a shot over Belfour's glove hand for his fifth goal in his last four playoff games. He failed to score in his first 27 games after being dealt to Buffalo by Pittsburgh just before the March trading deadline.
Primeau then made it 2-1 with his third playoff goal at 13:37 on the power play, but Hasek, uncharacteristically, couldn't keep the lead.
Maybe it was rust that temporarily slowed the Sabres, who hadn't played in eight days, while Dallas had only three days off after eliminating Colorado 4-1 in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals Friday. Or it could have been experience, as eight Stars own Stanley Cup rings with other teams, while no Sabres have their name engraved on the oldest trophy in major American pro sports.
Game 1 was the first final-round championship game in any of the four major sports played in Dallas. All of the Cowboys' Super Bowl championships, of course, were won in neutral sites, and the NBA Mavericks and baseball's Rangers have yet to play for championships.
The Stars played in the 1981 and 1991 Stanley Cup finals as the Minnesota North Stars. These are their first finals for the two-time President's Trophy regular season champions since relocating to Dallas in 1993.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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