Fri, May 26, 2006 - Page 15 News List

Sabres slide past Hurricanes to take Eastern Conference lead

AFP , BUFFALO, NEW YORK

Co-captains Chris Drury and Daniel Briere scored power-play goals on Wednesday as Buffalo erased a deficit and then held off Carolina 4-3 in the National Hockey League Stanley Cup playoffs.

The victory gave the Sabres a 2-1 advantage in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals.

Fourth-seeded Buffalo look to take a commanding lead when they host game four today.

Once again Buffalo had the upper hand on the power play, scoring in the last minute of the first period and early stages of the middle session to grab a 2-1 lead.

Drury cashed in 30 seconds prior to the first intermission, netting his league-leading fifth man-advantage tally to forge a tie.

With Doug Weight's first-period interference penalty carried over to the second period, Briere scored 62 seconds in to give the Sabres a lead they never relinquished.

Buffalo -- who improved to 5-1 at home this postseason -- are 5-for-17 on the power play in the series, while Carolina is just 3-of-14.

Briere increased the advantage to 3-1 on a partial breakaway at 8:28 and Ales Kotalik made it a three-goal bulge with just over seven minutes to go in the session.

Hoping to preserve Cam Ward's confidence, Carolina coach Peter Laviolette replaced the rookie goaltender with Martin Gerber, who made a pair of phenomenal saves on odd-man rushes in his first two minutes of action.

The stops seemed to inspire the Hurricanes as Cory Stillman scored his second goal of the game late in the period to cut the deficit to 4-2.

Carolina continued to press in the third but could not draw any closer until Eric Staal buried a one-timer from the right faceoff circle during a power play with 4:08 to go.

Rookie goaltender Ryan Miller made perhaps his biggest play of the game with two-and-a-half minutes left, poking away the puck to prevent a shot after Staal got around a defenseman down low following a give-and-go with Ray Whitney.

The Hurricanes kept the pressure on right to the final horn, but Miller stood tall and the Sabres recorded two of their 19 blocked shots to seal the win.

J.P. Dumont collected two assists and Miller finished with 24 saves for Buffalo, which has been involved in eight straight one-goal decisions.

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