Originally created 04/27/01

Penguins 3, Sabres 0



BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Mario Lemieux and Johan Hedberg teamed up for another playoff victory in a game that could prove costly for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Jaromir Jagr, the regular-season scoring champion, missed the third period with a leg injury as Pittsburgh beat the Buffalo Sabres 3-0 on Thursday night in the first game of the Eastern Conference semifinal series.

The Penguins would say only that Jagr had a "charley horse" injury, and gave no information on his status for Game 2 on Saturday.

Jagr limped off the ice after being checked hard into the boards by defenseman Alexei Zhitnik late in the second period. Little-used forward Josef Beranek took Jagr's spot on Pittsburgh's top line the rest of the way.

Pittsburgh still managed to find a way to win.

Jagr did manage to set up Lemieux's goal 5:07 into the game. Jan Hrdina, set up by Beranek, sealed the win by scoring with six minutes left. Former Sabres forward Wayne Primeau, set up by Lemieux, made it 3-0 with 2:20 remaining.

Hedberg, in only his fifth week in the NHL, then did the rest, stopping 25 shots to record his second shutout of the playoffs.

The Penguins are 3-0 in the postseason at Buffalo, after eliminating the Sabres 2-1 in a best-of-three 1979 first-round series - the only other time the two teams have met in the playoffs.

Game 2 is in Buffalo on Saturday afternoon.

It was a fitting goal for Lemieux, who four years ago to the day, had thought he had played his last game, retiring after Pittsburgh was eliminated by Philadelphia in the first round of the 1997 playoffs.

With the teams playing four aside, Jagr set up the goal when he attracted all four Sabres defenders to the left boards in the neutral zone. Jagr then spun around and fed a perfect pass to Lemieux, who was fresh off the bench coasting up the right wing.

Crossing the blue line, Lemieux blasted a 30-footer that beat goalie Dominik Hasek.

While it was Lemieux's 75th career playoff goal, it was only fourth ever against Hasek, and first in Buffalo.

While Lemieux's performance - he leads the Penguins with five goals and eight points this postseason - is no surprise, Hedberg has become an altogether different story.

After allowing only 10 goals in the Penguins first-round series elimination of Washington, Hedberg went to work against the Sabres, making numerous big stops.

Midway through the third period, Hedberg somehow got his glove on James Patrick's one-timer from the slot. Then, a minute before to Hrdina's goal, Hedberg made a big pad save on Chris Gratton's blast from the right circle.

In the second period, the goalie kicked out his left pad, preventing Doug Gilmour from stuffing in a rebound from in close.

Notes:

The Sabres caused a stir with their fans by almost doubling the price of their second-round playoff tickets. The top-priced seat sold for $154, up from $82 during the regular season, while the cheapest ticket costs $39, up from $21. ... NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, speaking to reporters during the first intermission, said the league is monitoring merger discussions between the financially troubled International Hockey League and the American Hockey League. "My hope is that we find a more stable minor league environment. I think there's been too much instability and that's not good for anyone," Bettman said. ... Sabres D Richard Smehlik, nursing a sore ankle injured in Game 3 of Buffalo's first-round series against Philadelphia, did not play. Buffalo was also without checking forward Erik Rasmussen (slightly separated right shoulder).