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May 23, 2002

Ron Francis

Arturs Irbe


Q. First of all, did you feel like going into the game that you were in it, that you were in the zone?

ARTURS IRBE: I wouldn't say so. I have felt a little bit better in some of the previous games. Tonight, I got my breaks. There were a couple of rebounds that players cleared and there were rebounds that usually fell off not too far so I could reach and cover up. As the game went on, I got a couple of lucky saves, the puck hits me, and the way they go. As it goes longer, the better you feel. And in the end, it was fun.

Q. That save, the point shot that was deflected, what were you thinking afterwards?

ARTURS IRBE: That was probably the first time in this series, maybe the second, where there's such a long rebound and we cannot clear it and the player has it on his stick. Once it happened in the last game where, if I am not mistaken, it was Kaberle and/or McCabe missed it right off the net, so I just dove and put everything I had in the front of my puck. Luckily it hit my mask and I just froze.

Q. Do you giggle after that? What do you say?

ARTURS IRBE: You're just happy it didn't go and that's the bottom line.

Q. You say that this is your first clear playoff shutout; correct?


Q. You said you're actually having fun while you're watching that clock tick down?

ARTURS IRBE: I'm passed that. I was really pulling for the shutout. Of course it's fun, but the bottom line is to get the win, and at the age of 35, you just want to get as many wins as possible in these playoffs. You know what it stands for, the Stanley Cup. Plus, on the other hand, I also don't watch the clock. I never watch the clock. I don't want to watch it. I watch the faceoff time and that's about it. I play the first minute the same way as the last one. Don't watch it and it's more common and more patient.

Q. Paul Maurice was upset about how you guys played, but then he said on the other hand, you guys won. How do you guys do this?

RON FRANCIS: I think the reason is sitting next to me. We didn't play well enough to win that rocky game; Archie stole it for us. We got one on the power play at the end of the first that sort of gave us a lead, and Archie made that hold up the rest of the game.

Q. Besides Archie was it a question of composure, maintaining yours?

RON FRANCIS: Well, I think we got ourselves in some penalty trouble that sort of took the flow out of the game. We had three in the first period before we had our power play late. A couple more in the second, one of them in the third, too. We have to do a better job of staying out of the box and I thought we didn't skate the way we needed to skate tonight. Hopefully, we can get refocused and play a better game on Saturday night.

Q. This team keeps surprising people during the playoffs. Your thoughts oncoming to Toronto, the hockey mecca and stealing two games.

RON FRANCIS: Well, I don't think anybody was thinking that was possible when we came in here, but I've said all along, our guys, we take it one game at a time and focus on the task at hand and go out and play as hard as we can, so fortunately, we were able to get both of them, the first one in overtime, and like I said, Archie stealing this one for us.

Q. Do you think people appreciate what you guys have done, people on the outside?

ARTURS IRBE: I think the people in Carolina do. We've talked about it all season long. We believe in ourselves and we believe in each other, and we go out there and play hard for each other, try to accomplish what we're trying to accomplish, and that's to win hockey games. Not so much concerned one way or the other with what people are saying. It's more of us going out there and competing hard for each other.

Q. The Leafs had a big boost with Pat Quinn back behind the bench and they looked that way, they played that way. What is the significance about this win, to beat them when they seemed to have everything going for them?

ARTURS IRBE: Well, they definitely played their best game, and it showed, I guess, in the flow of the game. We were fortunate, obviously to score some power play goals and capitalize on our chances in the power play. Other than that, even though they out played us, so we cannot hide from that. I would say there were a lot of great efforts defensively by our players while the Maple Leafs were throwing their best at us. We found a way, as usual, to come up with the big plays when they were needed most from a lot of different players. Like I said, there was only one rebound where they got a clear shot at the net all game long. All of the others were where I was in position. That shows what kind of defensive play was done by our team. At the end of the night, sure, we've been able to pull out those close ones, and I guess it's just like the regular season, where we had those 27 overtime games, and a lot of tight games even in these playoffs. So, we have learned to play it and luckily tonight we came over the top and everybody did what they were supposed to. It was not pretty but we got it done.

Q. What does it mean when you hear Ron Francis say, "This guy stole it."

ARTURS IRBE: Well, goalie's sometimes get that in a good fashion so, I'll take it.

Q. How did you feel compared to earlier in the playoffs where it seemed you had lost your chance to play? How do you feel now and how did you keep yourself ready to play?

ARTURS IRBE: Well, this is a funny game of bounces. Obviously, it was early in the playoffs, and that's the first time -- not the first time I faced this kind of situation, and it was great because Weekes, he stepped in and played a couple of unbelievable games and got us into the second round. I was patient. It's not easy to sit on the bench and watch the games especially in the playoffs, and that's when it counts most and that's what you play all year long for, but it's much easier when you play those games than when you lose and say "I couldn't help it." So we got our wins and we held our ground, and when I was called upon, I just used all I had, all of the experience that I have had playing for Mike Keenan. And so, obviously, thanks, Mike, if you are watching. So, it worked out.

Q. How did you keep your confidence?

ARTURS IRBE: Well, this is the greatest chance, obviously, in the playoff the for me personally. Yeah, you are not happy, you are obviously a little bit off the game. But at the same time, this team is so tight-knit, and Weekes was pulling for me at the beginning, and I was pulling for him. It's much less heartache when a team is tight-knit like it is, so it's been working well for us.

End of FastScripts...

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