Hurricanes foiled in OT

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:25 AM ET

BUFFALO -- Play on. Play on. So say the Edmonton Oilers.

Even Buffalo Sabres coach Lindy Ruff, the Warburg, Alta., native, admitted the team which is sitting and waiting to see who they'll play in the Stanley Cup Final had to love the fact a second straight game went to overtime and that the Eastern Conference Final is now going to Game 7.

"Any time you stretch it out, they have to like that fact," he said when Daniel Briere had scored at 4:22 of OT to win it 2-1.

Ruff didn't have the words to describe this almost heroic effort from his team which was forced to play with five defencemen after looking like they'd blown their wad in the first period and lost their legs.

"I don't know what you'd call it. I just thought it was a gutsy performance with the five 'D' and guys blocking shots and ... Ten of our last 11 have been one goal games. These guys just keep pushing through."

The Sabres blocked 26 shots to 11 by Carolina.

"It's an amazing feeling as a coach, to watch what has been happening here this year," said Ruff. "You can just stand back there and you know you're going to get the effort. It's pretty special."

WARD KEPT 'CANES IN IT

Sherwood Park's Cam Ward faced a lot of rubber as the Sabres poured everything they had at the Hurricanes early, outshooting them 9-1 early and taking a 1-0 lead on a rebound goal by J.P. Dumont.

They outhit Carolina 16-5 in the first. But as the game progressed, they were losing their legs at what one might describe as a record rate if one hadn't witnessed the Oilers' legs go when they were up 4-0 on Anaheim only to escape with a 5-4 win in Game 3 of the Western Conference final.

Ruff, missing three of his top six defencemen in Game 5 in Raleigh, decided to bring Teppo Numminen back early. But Numminen lasted less than five minutes.

Somehow, playing on an absolutely awful sheet of ice, the Sabres held on and held on until only 3:57 remained in a third period (in which they were outshot 12-6) when Bret Hedican finally got one by Ryan Miller to send the game to overtime.

But in OT, with ex-Oiler Doug Weight in the penalty box, Briere took one of those pinball-game shots, which went in off a leg and Ward's glove to send these two teams back to Raleigh.

To wear themselves out some more.

To beat each other up one more night in Game 7.

"In the first period we were not very good," said Carolina coach Peter Laviolette who questioned his team's character when this one was over.

"They came out and we didn't respond. We have a lot of veteran players and I was very disappointed. If it wasn't for Cam Ward it would have been a lot worse.

"That's not right. Had we shown up and played, we might have won it 1-0. Everybody knows what's at stake - a trip to the final. We had a great opportunity, a great chance and we didn't show up."

Numminen shouldn't have shown up. He played only 4:13. He left the other five, none of whom are exactly Chris Prongers, to play Pronger-type minutes. Toni Lydman played 27:41, Brian Campbell 26:58, Jay McKee 26:17 and Rory Fitzpatrick 25:17 with Doug Janik out there for only 10:10.

"The rest of us had to step up and I thought we did a great job," said Lydman.

"Look what this team has done all year. We just rise to the occasion."

McKee said everybody could see it.

"I don't want to sit here and pump our tires, but if you want to go far in the playoffs you have to step up and then step up a little bit more. We weren't going to give up."

The Sabres, who had gone through three nightmare Game 6 losses in elimination games at home in previous playoff years, weren't going to let it happen this year.

"There's a special bond right now in our dressing room," said Briere, "with everything we've gone through this year and everything we're going through in the playoffs.

"We have the same guys in this dressing room that were here for training camp. Nobody from the outside came in. There's definitely something special there. We don't want it to end.

'SURPRISED THEM A LITTLE BIT'

"I don't know, maybe we surprised them a little bit the way we came out. We were fired up. We wanted to show everybody that we're not a bunch of quitters.

"We haven't quit all year and we're not going to quit now."

Play on, play on.

So say the Oilers.

"I won't comment on that until the series is over," laughed Briere.

Or maybe the next one.


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