RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- It was the kind of play that saves not only a game, but perhaps a season.
The Sabres scored an ultimately meaningless goal against Carolina with 3 seconds remaining in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals Monday, making the final score 4-3. However, it marked the seventh consecutive game for the Sabres that was decided by one goal (five wins and two losses). That's tied for the third-longest streak in NHL playoff history. The Canadiens (1989) and Mighty Ducks (2003) each played eight consecutive one-goal games; Minnesota (2003) also had a seven-game streak.
• For more Elias Says, Click here
Glen Wesley, an 18-year veteran and the longest tenured active
NHL player not to win the Stanley Cup, dived over his goalie to
stop a sure goal.
"It was just a reaction thing, and fortunately, it stayed
out," said Wesley, who played in his 157th career playoff game.
And fortunately for the Carolina Hurricanes, he was there to
protect the lead in the third period.
Ray Whitney had both of his goals in a dominating second 20
minutes and the Hurricanes beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-3 Monday night
to even the Eastern Conference finals.
Frank Kaberle and Justin Williams also scored for Carolina in
Game 2, and rookie Cam Ward needed only 16 saves to pick up his
ninth victory of the playoffs. The Hurricanes had a 16-4 advantage
in shots during the second period, a game after the Sabres led that
"We made a note of it after the first period to make sure we
didn't have a letdown and continued to skate hard," Whitney said.
"With our team, when we skate hard, it's a better mix for us, when
we're not standing around and watching other teams do their
Game 3 is Wednesday night in Buffalo.
"We were skating and it was just fun to watch," Ward said.
"You see the guys playing that hard in front of you, you want to
do the same for them."
Whitney redirected a shot from Eric Staal on the power play for
his first goal to give Carolina a 2-1 lead, then added another with
the teams skating 4-on-4. Matt Cullen dug the puck out of the
corner and passed to Whitney between the circles, and his one-timer
slipped through goalie Ryan Miller to make it 3-1.
From Whitney's perspective, considering how open he was, he had
to wait an eternity for Cullen's assist.
"I was thinking, 'Pick your head up and slide it," Whitney
said with a laugh. "It just kind of opened up. Once Matt was done
stick-handling, he slid it over. It was a good play."
Buffalo nearly got within one goal early in the third period
when defenseman Jay McKee sent a slap shot toward the net. It
bounced off Ward's pads and was trickling toward the net when
Wesley leaped over the goalie to swipe it out of harm's way.
The play was reviewed in the replay booth, and referee Dan
O'Halloran quickly skated away from the phone to signal no goal.
"I saw Cam stop it and it literally trickled through him,"
Wesley said. "Fortunately, I was on the side and not in front of
him, and I was just able to get my stick on it, I guess in the nick
Staal had a great view of the play, standing behind Wesley in
front of the crease.
"That puck was going pretty quick, it was a great play," Staal
said. "You need those plays throughout the playoffs."
A short time later, Williams skated in and sent a deflected
wrist shot toward the net, where Miller simply whiffed on it with
his glove to give Williams his sixth goal of the postseason. The
capacity crowd at the RBC Center serenaded Buffalo's rookie goalie
with a chant of "Miller! Miller!" as the Hurricanes celebrated.
"The puck just hit the edge of my glove, hit my face, my
shoulder, went in," Miller said. "I would have liked to have
played it differently, obviously."
That proved to be an important goal when Buffalo captain Chris
Drury backhanded a rebound over Ward's right shoulder during a
two-man advantage midway through the final period. It was 4-2 at
that point, but the Hurricanes held on to take the best-of-seven
series back to Buffalo despite Derek Roy's power-play goal in the
"I wouldn't consider that a narrow defeat, by any means,"
Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "Their lines were better than our
lines, that's just the bottom line. The first 40 minutes was
probably the worst hockey we've played in the playoffs."
Carolina's power play, the best in the NHL during the playoffs
despite being shut out in the opener, got off to a great start with
goals on the first two opportunities. With right wing Ales Kotalik
off for interference, the Hurricanes patiently passed the puck
around before it got to Kaberle.
He used a screen from Rod Brind'Amour to beat Miller from right
outside the left circle.
"It was important, obviously, it's tough to play catch up
against a team like that, the way that Miller's been playing,"
Cullen said. "You certainly don't want to go down one, like we did
the last game."
Buffalo tied it late in the first period when Thomas Vanek got
credit for a goal that appeared to bounce in off Carolina
defenseman Mike Commodore. That also came on the man-advantage.
Then came the second 20 minutes and the Hurricanes' domination.
It started early when Doug Weight deftly dragged the puck through
the legs of Sabres defenseman Rory Fitzpatrick, but Miller was up
to the task when Weight went to the backhand.
The Hurricanes took the lead for good with Jochen Hecht in the
penalty box for tripping, with Whitney getting his first goal.
"We have to want it more if we want to move past these guys,"
Sabres co-captain Daniel Briere said. "They're a good hockey team,
but we want to play harder."Game notes
Buffalo D Teppo Numminen (lower body injury) didn't dress
and Doug Janik took his place in the lineup. It was Janik's first
game with the Sabres since the 2003-04 season. ... In the first
period, a message on the scoreboard read: "The Carolina Hurricanes
have won as many Super Bowls as the Buffalo Bills." ... Wesley got
an assist on Whitney's second goal, his first point of the
playoffs. He earned the second star for his efforts.