BUFFALO, N.Y. — Olaf Kolzig didn't have to be perfect, but he was. Craig Berube didn't expect to score, but he did. And now the Washington Capitals are a win away from the Stanley Cup finals.
Kolzig made 30 saves and Berube broke a scoreless tie early in the third period to give the Capitals a 2-0 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night and a 3-1 series lead in the Eastern Conference finals.
"I just try to give us a chance to win," said Kolzig, who became the ninth goaltender in NHL playoff history to record four shutouts. "I'm not trying to go out there and pitch a shutout. You need to make big saves when it's 1-0, but you also need to make them when it's 6-5."
As for Berube, he broke backup goaltender Bill Ranford's mask with a slap shot in the morning practice and was dubbed "Bobby Hull" by his teammates after the former Chicago Blackhawks' star known for his fierce shot.
"Maybe my shot's getting harder," Berube said jokingly.
Berube is known as one of the team's biggest jokesters and he hadn't scored a playoff goal in his 12-year NHL career. In fact, he never had more than eight goals in any one season. But the joke was on the Sabres when Berube scored the biggest goal of his career.
"I really didn't even look," Berube said. "I just shot it as hard as I could, and it went in."
Joe Juneau got the game's other goal with 6:22 remaining when he beat Dominik Hasek with a 70-foot slap shot that the goaltender badly misplayed while the Capitals were short-handed.
The Capitals have won three in a row over the Sabres and can reach the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in their 24-year history with a victory Tuesday in Washington.
"It's a super feeling," Capital Coach Ron Wilson said. "We take compete control of the series. We hung tough."
It marked the first time since the playoffs last year that the Sabres have lost three straight games. They had the NHL's best record (22-10-11) since Jan. 1 and had won eight of nine playoff games going into the series.
If nothing else, the Sabres can take this with them into Game 5: the Capitals have a 2-3 record in series in which they've had a 3-1 lead.
Buffalo, however, has never come back from a 3-1 series deficit in eight tries.