WASHINGTON -- Against a normal goalie, the Washington Capitals would have jumped to an early lead with the way Adam Oates was setting up his teammates in the first period last night.
After having a trio of golden scoring opportunities swallowed by Hasek in the first period, the Caps lapsed badly in the first two minutes of the middle period, allowing the Sabres two goals and a 2-0 victory in the first game of the best-of-seven series.
Michael Grosek gave the Sabres the lead by innocently hammering the puck to the boards in back of the Caps' Olie Kolzig and off to the goaltender's left. Grosek then outhustled two Caps to the puck and, from a sharp angle about 20 feet out, slipped it between Kolzig and the post on the short side.
It was a shot that should have been stopped, especially the way "Olie the Goalie" has been playing. But it was the first shot after intermission, just 31 seconds after play had resumed.
Less than a minute and a half later, a communication gaff in the Washington goal presented the visitors with their second score.
Kolzig had stopped a shot as Miroslav Satan slid feet first on his stomach past the goal. The puck was laying in the crease, Kolzig and defenseman Brendan Witt not sure what to do with it.
Satan did. Buffalo's left wing reached back and tapped it into the net from about 12 inches.
"I do feel bad about the first goal," said Kolzig. "I should have had it. The second goal was just out of my reach."
Over the next 18 minutes of the second period, the home team wasn't able to pose the threat against Hasek it had in the first period. And come the third period, forget it.
"I don't want to say it was easy, but it was the way my teammates were playing," said Hasek, who had 19 saves. "I expected [the Capitals] to come hard in the third period, but I don't think they had one good chance."
Buffalo, 9-1 in the playoffs, allowed the fewest goals in the NHL in the third period during the regular season (54) and lost just one game when leading after two periods.
In appeared early that the home ice was inspiring the Capitals, who shut down a pair of Buffalo power plays, allowing one shot, and were fairly flying in the offensive zone.
Among Washington's eight shots during the first period were setups from Oates to Phil Housley, Joe Juneau and Brian Bellows that found them going against Hasek one-on-one. No problem for the Czech native, who had 13 shutouts during the season and a 2.00 goals-against average during the postseason.
In addition, Bondra had a good chance only to be thwarted.
"We just have to put the puck in when we get the chance because we haven't been getting many shots in playoff games," said Caps coach Ron Wilson. "We did a nice job of controlling the tone and tempo of the game in the first period. But, in the second and third periods, we gave the puck up in the neutral zone too much and just didn't get many dump-ins."
The Caps could muster just six shots in the second period and five in the third period.
Pub Date: 5/24/98