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Drop the gloves during the playoffs with SI.com's writers in the NHL Cup Blog, a daily journal of hockey commentary, on-site reporting and reader-driven discussions.
11:56 PM ET, 5/30/06

Sabres keep hope alive

Posted by Yi-Wyn Yen
Overcoming hardship is part of the lore of being a Buffalo Sabre. If a Sabre can survive Brett Hull’s controversial winning goal, bankruptcy and the dreariness of downtown Buffalo, losing half your defensemen to injuries deep in the playoffs is just a minor blip in Sabres history.

After a week in which many dismissed the team’s chances to advance to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in seven years, Buffalo staved off elimination by winning Game 6 in overtime 2-1 against the Carolina Hurricanes.

“When you know you don’t have much left in the tank and you left everything out there, there’s nothing more rewarding,” says defenseman Jay McKee. “It’s certainly a real sweet feeling.”

The win was especially satisfying for Sabres coach Lindy Ruff who has spent much of the series publicly railing on his forwards for their lackluster and unproductive performance in finishing shots on odd-man rushes. In danger of being eliminated in front of a sold-out crowd of 18,690 at HSBC Arena, captain Daniel Briere scored a power-play goal that hit goalie Cam Ward’s shoulder 4:22 minutes into OT.

“I knew if the shot could just get to Ward, we could jump on the rebound,” Briere said. “[Carolina] is so good at blocking shots. We have to find ways to get it past their defensemen because they challenge us.”

The Sabres had never trailed in the postseason until Carolina took a 3-2 lead in the series. Struggling to convert power-play opportunities despite being ranked third best in the league during the regular season, the Sabres went 230 minutes without a power-play goal before Briere’s game-winner in Game 6.

“We played so well [in the first period] that we knew we were going to get a bounce,” Briere said. “I knew we were going to find a way to get it done.”

With their brilliant comeback, the tough-luck Sabres have shifted the pressure back to favored team.

“I thought this was the road that we were supposed to go down, but it’s not,” said Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette, who complained with the referees’ decision to not call a hook on defenseman Bret Hedican and right wing Justin Williams on the OT penalty kill. “Our backs are up against the wall, and we have a chance to show up and play.”