Before the population of Pominville increased enough to knock Ottawa out of the postseason, and before Bobby Hull’s son toe tapped his way into Stanley Cup infamy, one of the great Sabres playoff moments occurred in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 1993-94 season against the New Jersey Devils.
Looking back the signs of an epic goaltending duel were obvious – Hasek vs Broduer in a tight checking elimination game, but I’m guessing few if any of the forty plus players and coaches on the ice in the Memorial Auditorium knew they would be in store for over two games worth of shutout hockey.
With the Devils leading the series three games to two, both teams were very conservative early, neither willing to take a gamble and risk making the big mistake. However, things opened up late in the second period and by the third stanza we were looking at a full on goaltending extravaganza. Early in the third period, with the game still scoreless, Buffalo’s Alexander Mogilny was on the receiving end of a 2-on-1 pass that he rifled towards the top left corner of the net.
Martin Broduer appeared to be caught out of position but recovered and backhanded the puck with his glove while making a cartwheel through the crease. It was at this point the fans, players, and announcers alike were wondering if anyone was going to light the lamp.
After 60 minutes of shutout action the teams took the ice for the first overtime session, with both goalies in complete control. After another scoreless period they skated for yet another overtime period, again with no goals. By the third overtime you could see the fatigue amongst both teams’ skaters. Fourth liners were beginning to carry the play as they had the freshest legs from limited ice time during regulation, but Hasek and Brodeur would not tire.
While Buffalo had their share of opportunities up front, it was the persistent Devils who had the edge in terms of total chances. However Dominik Hasek was up to the task. The Dominator rarely had to make the highlight reel save, but the shots kept coming, 70 of them in total, all turned aside by the Sabres netminder.
After the third overtime period, both teams had now played the equivalent of two regulation games and each had failed to score a single goal. The exhausted players took the ice for the fourth overtime period, with Buffalo a goal away from forcing a Game 7 in New Jersey, or a goal away from elimination. Five minutes and 43 seconds later the puck would find its way from Jason Dawe behind the net onto the blade of Sabres defenseman Dave Hannan’s stick, his backhand had eyes through all the traffic and just eluded Broduer’s glove to end what many have called the greatest goaltending performance in NHL history. The Buffalo Sabres avoided elimination and ended a game that had started over four hours earlier with a 1-0 victory over the New Jersey Devils.
Only Kelly Hrudey has saved more shots in a playoff game (73) than Hasek’s 70 save performance. However, Hrudey let in two goals that game, while the Dominator notched a shutout. Even in the loss Martin Broduer was 49 of 50. Though the Sabres would fall short in Game 7, losing 2-1 in another tightly contested goaltending duel, anyone who stayed up to the wee hours of the morning to watch Dave Hannan celebrate the game’s lone goal will have the voice of Rick Jeanneret calling “…And this series is going back to where Jimmy Hoffa is!” forever etched in their memory.