Buffalo Sabres: The 5 Most Memorable Playoff Goals in Franchise History

Erik Cotton@https://twitter.com/ErikCotton2Correspondent IJanuary 5, 2013

Buffalo Sabres: The 5 Most Memorable Playoff Goals in Franchise History

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    For a team that's never won a Stanley Cup, the Buffalo Sabres still have a long list of playoff dramas.  Those runs have seen this team captivate a city like few others in professional sports.

    So who has the most memorable playoff goals in franchise history?

    As with any list, there will be some candidates left out that certainly have legitimate reasons for being included. 

    1996-97 saw the Sabres capture their first division title in 16 years and began their era as "the hardest-working team in hockey." Derek Plante culminated their first-round series with the Ottawa Senators that year by clinching Game 7 in OT with a slapshot that just dribbled by Sens goalie Ron Tugnutt.

    When Buffalo returned from the last lockout in 2005-06, Chris Drury ended a wild, seesaw battle in Game 1 of its second-round series, again versus heavily favored Ottawa. The OT winner finished an incredible 7-6 shootout.

    In the following slides, we're going to look at five postseason goals that should be ingrained in every Sabres fans' mind, young or old.

5. Jason Woolley, Game 1 of the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals

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    As the 1998-99 season began, the Sabres were fresh off a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals the year before. 

    Their reputation as a team full of hard-workers with mediocre talent endeared them to a fanbase that had fallen in love with their lunch-pail mentality.

    After finishing only seventh in the East with 91 points, Buffalo once again went on a playoff run. 

    The Sabres swept the second-seeded Sens in the first round and then went on to beat Boston in six games and Toronto in five.

    That earned them their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals since 1975. As heavy underdogs against the Dallas Stars, who had an NHL-leading 114 points in the regular season, the series began in Big D.

    Jason Woolley proceeded to forever etch his name in Sabres lore with that OT goal.

    Although it went on to lose the series, the belief that Buffalo had a real chance to win the Cup became a reality after that Game 1 stunner.

4. Jason Pominville, Game 5 of the 2006 Eastern Conference Semifinals

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    Coming out of the previous lockout, expectations for the Sabres were minimal.

    They had missed the playoffs for three consecutive seasons prior to the stoppage. The team was comprised of several young and non-established players, most notably goalie Ryan Miller.

    However, this squad adapted to the changes in the game as well as anyone in the league and posted its first of back-to-back 50-win seasons. 2005-06 was the first 50-win season in franchise history.

    Of its 24 losses that year, five of them were to the high-powered Senators, including a 10-4 pounding in Buffalo.

    Yet, that didn't carry over to the playoffs. 

    The Sabres matched Ottawa's firepower and got better goaltending. After Drury's aforementioned Game 1 winner, Pominville ended the series with a short-hander, when he schooled Daniel Alfredsson in overtime of Game 5. 

    One of those young and non-established players had just put himself on the map in a big way.

3. Dave Hannan, Game 6 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

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    For those of us who had the pleasure of attending this marathon, it's one that has yet to be matched in Sabres history.

    Sure, it's the longest game (four OTs) in the 42 years of the franchise's existence. It was also the most impressive goaltending performance The Aud ever saw.

    But what sets this game apart from any other is how much was at stake that night. 

    Remember that the final score was 1-0. One goal scored in over seven periods of hockey! 

    The amount of pressure that was on Dominik Hasek and Martin Brodeur as each overtime passed is immeasurable. Especially for Hasek, as he single-handedly kept his team from elimination.

    The only goal scorer that night also adds to this legendary piece of Buffalo's hockey past. 

    Dave Hannan was one of the Sabres' best penalty-killers, but hardly someone who you'd pick to end a night where no one could put the puck in the net.  But with that backhand, he finished a game that went well past two o'clock in the morning.

2. Rene Robert, Game 3 of the 1975 Stanley Cup Finals

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    The French Connection lost one of its three members when Rick Martin passed in 2011. It was a sad day for Sabres fans, because it was that line that defined the success Buffalo enjoyed throughout much of the 70s.

    Its shining moment came during the 1974-75 season. 

    The Sabres tied for the NHL lead in points with 113 and dispatched Chicago and Montreal en route to their first finals appearance versus Philadelphia.

    Abnormally warm temperatures in Buffalo that spring created the environment for Game 3. Fondly referred to as the "Fog Game," play had to be stopped 12 different times because of the conditions.

    The fans in The Aud that night couldn't see much, but they knew they were a part of one of the most memorable yet bizarre nights in NHL history.

    The game had everything. Jim Lorentz killed a bat with his stick as it fluttered around the ice.

    And, of course, there's Robert's OT winner, which was a bad-angle shot from along the boards that Flyers goalie Bernie Parent never saw.

1. Brad May, Game 4 of the 1993 Adams Division Semifinals

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    Buffalo entered its first-round matchup with Boston in the 1993 playoffs having not advanced in the postseason since 1982-83.

    However, going into Game 4, the Sabres had built a 3-0 series lead. They were coming off an emotional Game 3 win in overtime thanks to Yuri Khmylev's PP marker.

    The moments leading up to May's infamous goal in Game 4 can only be described as surreal. 

    Cameras caught the bruising winger kissing his stick before a faceoff several minutes prior to the goal.  May was the unlikeliest of heroes, which makes this play that much more legendary.

    The stars were aligned for Buffalo on that rush. Pat LaFontaine was tripped, but still managed to put a pass right on May's tape.

    Then it was all No. 27, as he deked Ray Bourque and Andy Moog to end almost a decade of playoff frustration for the Sabres. 

    Rick Jeanneret's call of "May Day" evokes as much emotion now as it did back then. All of it put together equals the most memorable postseason goal in Buffalo's storied hockey history.


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