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Hasek Throws Up Impenetrable Wall

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Garry Galley had six chances against it. Russ Courtnall and Rob Blake each whacked at it four times. And, just for good measure, Jozef Stumpel, Craig Johnson, Glen Murray, Philippe Boucher and Yanic Perreault combined to add 15 more.

In the end, it really didn’t matter how many shots the Kings had against the great wall of Dominik Hasek because the Buffalo goaltender was simply on top of his game Wednesday night as he recorded his league-leading 13th shutout of the season in the Sabres’ 4-0 victory before 15,444 at Marine Midland Arena.

Hasek finished with 37 saves in the 33rd shutout of his career, and the Sabres scored two power-play goals in a game featuring 39 total penalties to hand the Kings their sixth loss in their last 10 games.

“He’s the best goaltender in the league, there’s no doubt about that,” Blake said of Hasek. “We got a lot of shots on him tonight and had good traffic in front, but still he made the saves. He’s done it two years in a row. It’s not a freak thing that he’s doing right now.”

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Unlike most of their losses since the Olympic break, the Kings did not play poorly. If not for Hasek’s incredible skills, they could have easily skated away with their second consecutive road victory, or at least a tie.

“You can’t even try to analyze a game like tonight, it was out of hand after the first period,” said King Coach Larry Robinson, who several times this season has expressed his disgust with the officiating. “I thought we played hard, I thought we played really well. We threw everything but the kitchen sink at [Hasek]. We had our chances, but you can’t get any momentum in a game where it is one penalty after another. It was actually a joke.”

The Kings, who now have been blanked four times this season, had numerous solid scoring chances. But like many frustrated teams have discovered in recent years, there’s a reason why Hasek is called “The Dominator”.

“It’s not my goal to get shutouts,” Hasek said. “We need to win a couple of more games to get to the playoffs. . .I would like to have more shutouts, but it’s not a priority.”

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Here is a breakdown of some of the Kings’ best opportunities:

* From the top of the crease in the first period, Murray tried to lift the puck into the net but Hasek quickly moved from one side of the goal to the other and knocked it away with his glove;.

* After blocking a Boucher slap shot from the blue line, Hasek recovered in time to stop a rebound attempt by Johnson, also in the first period;

* With the Kings short-handed, Courtnall had a breakaway chance blocked by Hasek in the second period.

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“If we put a couple away early, it’s a different game,” said King assistant Don Edwards, who played with Buffalo from 1976-82 and leads Hasek by eight wins in the Sabres’ record book for goaltenders. “He makes them a different team. They are not anything special . . . everything centers around him. If he is off his game, they lose.”

The Sabres, in the hunt for the final home-ice playoff position in the Eastern Conference, took a 1-0 lead in the first period on a rebound power-play goal by Donald Audette at 12:10.

Buffalo took a 2-0 lead in the second period when Curtis Brown scored the Sabres’ second power-play goal off a rebound at 15:46.

The Sabres extended their lead in the third period with a goal by former King Alexei Zhitnik at 2:55 and an another by Audette at 12:05 to complete the scoring.

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