A blistering shot, a disbelieving all-world goalie, a mysterious knock at the door. It all added up to another disputed goal, and a replay nightmare that never seems to end for the Buffalo Sabres.
The Flyers took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 first-round playoff series. The Sabres must be ready to take a sledgehammer to the league's video replay room.
"What a great hockey game it was," Sabres forward Dixon Ward said. "But regardless of the outcome, it has to be marred by something stupid again."
It was another embarrassing replay blunder for the league, and an unthinkably cruel twist for the Sabres who were beaten in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals last year on Brett Hull's disputed goal with his foot in the crease.
LeClair blasted a slap shot from Hasek's left side for a power-play goal that tied the score at 1-all. The shot was so hard it was difficult to see how the puck got past Hasek, but it ended up bouncing around in the net.
"I blamed myself," Hasek said. "I thought maybI left a hole."
But a close-up television replay from behind the net showed that LeClair's goal went in on the outside of the post. Even in slow-motion, the puck was traveling too fast to tell whether it went under the mesh or through it.
"They said it was a good goal, and that was the end of it," LeClair said.
NHL supervisor John D'Amico admitted afterward that the goal shouldn't have counted, but said there was nothing that could have been done. The video replay judge, Mike Condon, only had access to two camera angles when reviewing the goal. Both those angles were shaky and D'Amico said they showed the puck going in cleanly.
It was only the shot from behind Hasek - from ESPN's "Net Cam"
that showed the puck going in on the outside of the post.
"We can't review what we can't see," an apologetic D'Amico said.
Summing up the emotion of the evening, Flyers coach Craig Ramsay said, "I have seen it all."
Hasek shook his head in disbelief while taking a swig from his water bottle after the goal. Unlike Hull's goal no one realized there was anything wrong until about six minutes later.
"It was a 99-mph, 100-mph shot," Hasek said. "I looked at it right away and blamed myself. I thought maybe I made a mistake."
At the same time, Hasek couldn't understand how the puck got in because he knew he had the side of the net covered.
"As a player, you say there's no way this puck can go in even though you saw it go in," said Ward, who later noticed the hole in the side of the net that presumably was made by LeClair's shot. "You're thinking, `It's an optical illusion.'"
Rule 93 in the NHL Rule Book - the video goal judge rule - only lists why a play can be reviewed. It doesn't mention anything about a time frame for reviewing and D'Amico said nothing can be done once play resumes.
Asked if the goal would have been disallowed if the video judge had seen the ESPN replay, D'Amico said, "You're right."
NHL executive vice-president and director of hockey operations Colin Campbell was in Toronto and called a post-game show on the Sabres' network.
"I've had two conversations with (Sabres general manager) Darcy (Regier) and he's upset and he should be upset. And every Buffalo fan should be upset," Campbell told the Empire Sports Network. "You think we wanted this to happen? It's the last thing you wanted to happen. You want a game to end because one team played better than the other team and they won the game."
Rookie Brian Boucher was stellar again, making 26 saves and keeping his cool when the Sabres went on desperate attack late in the third. Hasek, meanwhile, doesn't want to know the Flyers' record when they win the first two games of a playoff series - 17-0.
Gam3 is Sunday night at Buffalo.
"Obviously, we can't comment on it," Ward said sarcastically. "They tell us that. They tell us to promote the game. And what a wonderful game it is."
Adding to the Oliver Stone-like plot, D'Amico admitted that the whole thing started with a mysterious knock at the door of the NHL officials' box.
"I'll be frank with you, I don't know who the gentleman was," D'Amico said. "But someone came and said that ESPN's camera was showing the puck entering from the outside of the net."
Miroslav Satan gave the Sabres a 1-0 lead in the first period with his second goal of the series. With 4:07 elapsed in the third, Desjardins walked in alone from Hasek's left on the power play and scored the decisive goal while Keith Primeau - the Flyers' burly pest - charged The Dominator.
Hasek, who gave up a rare three goals in Game 1, looked much sharper and more sure of himself in the opening minutes. He stopped Mark Recchi on a breakaway about 9 1/2 minutes into the game, but he couldn't keep his composure for long.
A few minutes after LeClair's goal, Hasek attacked Primeau after a seemingly innocuous play in the crease.
Primeau skated in for a rebound that Hasek covered. Hasek then chased Primeau out of the net and started swinging his blocker pad at Primeau's head. A melee ensued, and Hasek got a roughing penalty.
It was that kind of night for Hasek, the most dominant goaltender in the sport who suddenly finds himself vulnerable even when he has the whole net covered.
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