Hebert, Hasek Duel to Standoff

TIMES STAFF WRITER

He was overshadowed, certainly. And there was no question he wasn't as flashy. Or tested as often.

But Mighty Duck goaltender Guy Hebert matched Dominik Hasek of the Buffalo Sabres as best he could Friday at Marine Midland Arena.

The two waged a classic goaltenders' duel, and since neither could be beaten after giving up first-period goals, the Ducks and Sabres tied, 1-1, in front of 16,416.

The Sabres might have won their fourth in five games, but Hebert, helped by continued excellence by the Duck defense, wouldn't crack.

The Ducks might have romped by three or four goals, but Hasek stopped one excellent scoring chance after another.

Actually, the Ducks did get one more past Hasek. But Steve Rucchin's apparent go-ahead goal was wiped out by the video replay official with 46.8 seconds left in regulation.

TV replays available to reporters confirmed that Paul Kariya's left skate was in the crease before Rucchin released his point-blank shot. The Ducks found no fault with the call, only the rule itself.

"That's the rule," Rucchin said. "But I think it's a bad rule. [Kariya] had only one skate in there and he wasn't near Hasek."

Said Kariya: "I didn't think I was anywhere near the crease. I saw the puck go behind [Hasek] and I went for it."

The Ducks dominated in overtime, but couldn't get anything past Hasek. In the end, they flew to Pittsburgh content to have earned a tie and a point that vaulted them past Calgary and out of last place in the Pacific Division.

Of course, they would have preferred to win, but as Rucchin said, "Any time you steal a point on the road you've got to be happy."

The Ducks took a 1-0 lead 12 1/2 minutes into the game on J.F. Jomphe's second goal. They had opportunities to increase the lead, but Hasek denied them at every turn.

By game's end, Hasek had stopped 39 of 40 shots. It was a dramatic turnaround from his last start, a 7-6 loss to Vancouver on Wednesday.

"There was not much more we could do," right wing Joe Sacco said. "We were all over him."

Buffalo needed Derek Plante's power-play goal to pull even at the 17:53 mark. The Duck defense clamped down, aided by repeated offensive strikes against Hasek, and the tie held up.

"It seemed fair for both guys that it came out a tie," Rucchin said of Hebert and Hasek. "They were the best guys on the ice."

Hebert's torrid goaltending has been crucial to the Ducks' resurgence. In the past eight games, Hebert has a 1.23 goals-against average. He has given up one goal or fewer in five the past eight.

Is it any wonder the Ducks are 5-1-2 in that span?

As much as Coach Ron Wilson would like to keep Hebert in goal, he probably will start Mikhail Shtalenkov tonight against the Penguins. Wilson then would bring Hebert back for Monday's game at Boston.

Meanwhile, Hasek was nearly impossible to crack. In fact, he seemed to gain strength as the game progressed.

Flat on his back, looking as if he were making angels in the snow, Hasek stopped winger Brian Bellows twice during a goalmouth scramble in the second period.

In the third, Hasek made a toe save on winger Valeri Karpov's rush to the net. Karpov had faked out defenseman Jay McKee, moving from the right wing to the slot to deliver his shot.

Hebert stopped 22 of 23 shots, including third-period saves on Michal Grosek, who had three goals Wednesday, and Jason Dawe, who had Buffalo's last, best chance.

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