Miracle on ice unlikely

BRUCE GARRIOCH

, Last Updated: 9:03 AM ET

BUFFALO -- Denis Potvin still believes in miracles.

How can he not when he was part of one some 32 years ago?

Potvin was a defenceman with the New York Islanders when they rallied from a 3-0 deficit and beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in their Round 2 best-of-seven series.

"It was pretty desperate and hopeless when we got down 3-0," the Hall-of-Famer said yesterday from his Florida home where he's broadcasting daily on XM Radio.

"Then we got to practice and Al Arbour, who had been suffering with some kind of (illness) and had been in real pain for a couple of weeks, apologized to us. He said, 'Look guys, I haven't been a good coach. I've let you down up until now.' We were just kind of looking at each other.

"You used to hear Coach say, 'You guys aren't doing this and you've got to be tougher and you've got to be stronger.' It was unbelievable. Even J.P. Parise, who was a veteran at the time, said 'Let's just go win one for this guy.' We kind of felt bad for (Arbour) so we went out and won that game."

That was the start of something special for the Islanders. And the Buffalo Sabres are hoping for a miracle of their own when they host the Senators in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference final this afternoon at HSBC Arena.

Having been on the side of one of only two NHL teams to rally back to win after being down 3-0 in a series, Potvin believes a Sabres victory this afternoon could plant a seed of doubt in the Senators' dressing room.

"I really think the series turned for us in Game 5. That's where we started making people think we could come back from this," said Potvin, whose team joined the 1942 Maple Leafs as the only ones to accomplish the feat.

"If Buffalo wins (today), they can win in Ottawa. The difference (between this series and the one in 1975) is maybe the pivotal game has already been played.

"The fact that Buffalo has already won one in Ottawa, if the Sabres win (today), I think Game 6 turns into Game 7 and then it becomes a series where Ottawa never should have let it get to that point."

But Potvin isn't convinced the Sabres, who were able to keep Ottawa's big three of Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza off the scoresheet in a 3-2 win in Game 4, have what it takes to follow the same path as the Islanders, even if Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff says they do.

"Buffalo is going to have to show me they can play a lot better," said Potvin. "Even in Game 4, I didn't think Buffalo played that well. They weren't skating very good, they were showing signs of what they showed in the first three games and they were still hesitant.

"I think they're intimidated and I still think that Chris Neil's hit on Chris Drury early in the season is still having an effect on Buffalo. I absolutely do.

"It appears to me that this series has been determined around the boards and Buffalo can't come out with the puck."

That's why Potvin isn't convinced the Senators will give up this lead.

"Ottawa has been the better team in every game," said Potvin. "The Senators are a much better team than the Pittsburgh team we played in 1975. That's why I think that Buffalo's likeliness of coming back isn't very good.

"It's been done, but it was 30 years ago, and even when we did it that was a miracle. I just don't think that Pittsburgh team we played against was very good and we finally found some weaknesses and I don't think there are many weaknesses on Ottawa. Their six defencemen were better than any group in the league and they've shown it in this series.

"Right now, (Senators coach) Bryan Murray is able to put some pretty good players on the ice and get the matchup he wants."


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