|Rob Ray (Photo: Getty Images) |
The fact that Rob Ray finished his 15-year NHL career with 3,207 penalty minutes probably doesn’t shock most Buffalo fans.
A statistic showing that the enforcer has only registered three goals in the post-season likely won’t be filed under the unexpected either (After all, he retired with 41 career goals after playing 900 games).
What may come as a surprise, however, is that two of the three playoff scores that Ray is credited with were actually game-winning tallies.
The first time the winger accomplished the feat was in the 1991 campaign, Ray’s first post-season appearance, against the Montreal Canadiens.
The second time came against an old foe in the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“I single-handedly beat them,” Ray joked.
During the Sabres’ famed Cup run in the 1999 playoffs they faced the Leafs in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Sabres split the first two games of the series in Toronto before heading home to HSBC Arena.
“Back then the rivalry was different,” Ray said. “When I first started playing, you would only play them once a year, maybe twice. When they were moved to our division it created a totally different atmosphere.”
From 1993 until 1998 the Maple Leafs were in the Western Conference, playing in the Central Division. But with the NHL expanding, Toronto was placed back in the Eastern Conference and the Northeast Division with the Sabres – reheating the contention that existed between the neighboring cities.
When the Sabres took a 2-1 series lead after winning their first game in Buffalo, the sentiment hardly improved.
“It was the high-powered Leafs, versus us who weren’t getting any attention,” Ray said.
In Game 4, the Sabres took a commanding 3-1 lead against Toronto – with the help of ‘Razor.’
“Stu Barnes was on the wall… he just saucered it across to the front of the crease. I had my back to the net and all I was trying to do was stop the puck so I could maybe turn and fire it on net,” Ray said. “When I went to slap it down, it hit the back of my stick and hit so hard that it went between my legs and went between his legs and went in.”
The goal gave Buffalo a 3-0 lead in the second period. Hanging on to defeat the Leafs 5-2, Ray was credited with the game-winning goal.
“Everyone talked about the atmosphere of the Stanley Cup Finals. That was nothing compared to the series against Toronto,” Ray said. “It was the atmosphere outside the rink and in the building. Even now when you see Toronto play here it’s a totally different crowd. When you’re dealing with that in a playoff situation, it’s amplified by 10. At that point, because of the playoffs, it wasn’t a 50/50 split with Buffalo and Toronto fans. It was mostly Buffalo fans and people were going nuts… it was an atmosphere you can never duplicate.”