Originally created 05/29/99

Hasek says he's fit for Game 4



BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Dominik Hasek skated briefly on Friday, performed a few pirouettes and other assorted goalie maneuvers, then uttered some words the Toronto Maple Leafs didn't necessarily want to hear.

"I feel exactly the same way I felt against Ottawa," the Buffalo Sabres' star goalie said. "Once the puck was dropped, I didn't think of my injury."

Not the most encouraging words for the Maple Leafs, who trail 2-1 in the Eastern Conference finals entering Saturday night's Game 4.

Against the Senators in the first round, Hasek had one shutout and allowed six goals as the Sabres captured three one-goal games and swept the best-of-7 series.

Hasek, who sat out the first two games against the Maple Leafs when his chronically injured groin became too painful to play, returned to the lineup Thursday night after the Leafs had rallied for a 6-3 victory in Game 2 and sparked the Sabres to an important 4-2 win.

"I like to go on the ice," said Hasek, who made 24 saves, including three crucial stops in the third period before Curtis Brown's empty-net goal in the final minute secured the victory. "I don't like the days off. I like to feel the ice."

There might be more to feel than ice in Game 4 at Marine Midland Arena. After Brown's goal, Toronto coach Pat Quinn set out tough guys Tie Domi and Kris King to stir things up and they did. A mini-melee broke out in the closing seconds after Domi skated through Hasek's crease and bumped him.

"It doesn't bother me too much," said Hasek, who retreated to the safety of the dressing room when things threatened to get out of hand. "I got mad for a couple of seconds. Maybe I said something. But after a couple of seconds I'm focused on the game."

It was the culmination of a night of attempted intimidation by the Maple Leafs against Hasek, who prevented them from tying the game in the third period with key stops in close on Sergei Berezin, Steve Thomas and Mats Sundin.

"Everybody's emotions were running high at the end," said Sabres coach Lindy Ruff, who initially called Quinn's tactics "classless" and then toned down the criticism Friday. "When I was down 4-1 the other night, there were some evil thoughts inside my head, too. I was angry about what went on on the ice, that Domi ran into Dom's legs. I don't think there was vicious intent. I just didn't like it."

For Quinn, there was not much to like about his defense, either. It collapsed under the forechecking pressure of the Sabres, allowing a shorthanded goal by Joe Juneau and the Sabres' 13th power-play goal of the postseason.

Defensive lapses on the same play by Sylvain Cote and Daniil Markov in front of Toronto goalie Curtis Joseph, and another by Bryan Berard allowed Miroslav Satan and Juneau to transform a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead in a matter of seconds early in the second period.

"Next game we'll have to play for 60 minutes," said Yanic Perreault, who scored the first Toronto goal on only the third shot of the game by the Maple Leafs. "Every goal's going to be huge."