Sabres Make it Two Apiece in Finals

By Ray Van Horn, Jr. Copyright 1999

1999 Playoffs




Two key turnovers by the Dallas Stars were the difference for the Buffalo Sabres in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals, as the Sabres won a gritty duel by the narrow margin of 2-1 to tie the series at 2-2.

Buffalo displayed caution in the first period, until Geoff Sanderson capitalized on a Dallas turnover at 8:09. Sanderson broke away along the boards, faked a slapper against Dallas' Ed Belfour, then slipped the puck past Belfour, who had ventured out of his crease.

The Stars tied the game at 10:14 on a power play that was initiated by a Wayne Primeau charging penalty. Jere Lehtinen scored the goal as Derrien Hatcher and Mike Modano set him up on a triangular passing scheme. The Stars had previously scored only once in their last 17 power play opportunities.

The Sabres were momentarily thrown off of their game with the Dallas score, but rebounded in the second period on a Dixon Ward stuffer at 7:37. Ward intercepted an errant pass by the Stars' Craig Ludwig, setting up a wrist shot past Belfour to give Buffalo the 2-1 advantage.

The Sabres would hold onto the lead, even as Dallas held them to only two shots in the third period. They achieved this through hard hitting, strong back checking and high quality stoppage by Dominik Hasek, who made 30 saves in the win. Hasek also came to Marine Midland Arena with a chip on his shoulder, cocking his fist in two separate incidents in which he was either mugged by Dallas, or had his stick knocked away in the heat of battle.

Perhaps the unsung hero of the game was veteran Randy Cunneyworth, the player/coach of the AHL's Rochester Americans, who was called up by the Sabres for this series. Cunneyworth played many shifts, delivering hits and making a key save in net when Hasek was grossly out of position.

Hasek, who publicly decreed that he would step up for his team in lieu of a 2-1 game deficit through Game 3, was described by head coach Lindy Ruff as "the leader of the game. He set the tone for us." Dixon Ward added, "Dominik made the saves when we needed them, and the guys really forechecked, and that's what counts."

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