Sabres, 'Canes all even

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:15 AM ET

BUFFALO -- They both wear red, white and black.

They both won 52 games during the regular season.

Each team features fast skating forwards and rookie goaltenders who have played beyond their years during the 2006 post-season.

Given all that, should anyone really be surprised that the Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes will need a seventh and deciding game of this Eastern Conference final tomorrow night in Raleigh in order to determine who goes on to meet the Edmonton Oilers for the Stanley Cup?

This is the way it should be -- two squads that mirror each other facing off in a one-game, winner-take-all showdown for a berth in the final.

And the Sabres can thank Daniel Briere for getting them to this point.

With Carolina's Doug Weight serving a controversial boarding minor, Briere scored the winning goal at 4:22 of overtime to give the Sabres a dramatic 2-1 victory last night, tying the series 3-3.

Briere's wrist shot from the blue line went through a maze of players before being knocked high in the air by the glove of Cam Ward. By the time the 'Canes goalie located it, the puck had come down just over the line, sending the capacity crowd of 18,690 into a frenzy.

Briere did not actually witness his season-salvaging goal go in.

"I saw the light go on. I saw the fans kind of jumping up (but) I couldn't see much from the blue line," Briere said.

"I mean, it's a heck of a feeling when you see everybody getting up and going nuts like that."

Briere said the Sabres were not deflated by Bret Hedican's game-tying goal with less than four minutes remaining in regulation which sent the game into extra time.

Hedican's tally offset the game's opening goal scored by the Sabres' J.P. Dumont at 4:56 of the first period.

"We were confident in the room waiting for overtime to start," Briere said. "We knew this would be our night."

Asked abut Game 7, Briere said, "It's going to be crazy."

Looking at the the histories of both teams, there have been very few seventh heavens for the Sabres or the 'Canes.

While the Sabres are just 1-4 in Game 7s, the 'Canes are even worse. The franchise is 0-3 in seventh games, those coming while the team was still known as the Hartford Whalers.

Through it all, the biggest benefactors of this gruelling series stand to be the Oilers, who must be watching their televisions with glee as their two potential opponents continue to beat the stuffing out of each other.

Sabres defenceman Teppo Numminen, meanwhile, returned to the Sabres lineup last night, albeit not for long.

Numminen, out since Game 1, tweaked his hip flexor injury and did not play the final two periods.

He did tell Finnish reporters after the game that he was not ruling out playing in Game 7.


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