"We played really well in the third and had some great scoring chances in overtime," said a deflated JP Dumont. "That (penalty) just cost us the game."
Coming off the bench, Dumont was attempting to contain the puck down when Stillman shifted towards the back of the net. While trying to lift the forward's stick, Dumont's blade got caught in Stillman's equipment. Dumont immediately let go of his stick but the damage was done. Carolina was warranted the game-winning power play.
"In overtime, that was probably the only chance they had to score a goal," Dumont said.
Carolina leads the Eastern Conference Finals three games to two as the series shifts back to Buffalo on Tuesday night for Game Six. Buffalo never trailed in either of its opening two playoff rounds and was 4-0 in games when the series was tied coming into the contest. The Sabres were also 4-0 in overtime during the playoffs until Stillman's blast at 8:46 of the extra period.
"We did everything we could have and came up a bit short," said Jay McKee, who logged more than 25 minutes of ice time and a plus/minus rating of minus-one in the game. "Now we have to focus on going back to Buffalo and doing everything we can to force a Game Seven."
Led by Brian Campbell, who played more than 34 minutes and was a plus-two, the Sabres' defense held Carolina to just four shots during the third period and overtime, including three power plays. The performance was arguably their best in three games, despite missing three key starters.
"Even with a depleted defense, we can play and play well," said McKee. "The guys that are filling in are doing an exceptional job. We're obviously trying to keep our lines matched and they're doing a great job of getting on and off the ice. You can't ask for anything more from them.
"To have a third period in Carolina where we allow only one shot ... that's a great effort from the whole team."
Carolina's goaltending carousel continued in Game Five as rookie Cam Ward replaced Martin Gerber during the second period after the veteran goaltender allowed three goals off 11 shots. Ward's save of the night came with four minutes remaining in regulation when he stuffed Maxim Afinogenov on a breakaway with a kick save.
"We asked the players for a lot and we got a lot," said Ruff. "It's a tough loss but it should only make us hungrier."
Ward finished with 15 saves, while Ryan Miller
countered with 21.
Buffalo continues to struggle with the man advantage. Going back to Game Three, the Sabres have failed to score with the man advantage in their last 11 opportunities, including a power-play that could have ended the game when Bret Hedican was whistled for hooking at 19:19 of the third.
"It's disappointing to loss, but I'm not disappointed (with Buffalo's play) at all," said Ruff.
Carolina erased a two-goal Buffalo lead with a pair of goals in the second period.
Doug Weight feathered an across-crease pass from the goal line to Mark Recchi for the wide-open net at 5:21 to make the score 3-2 in favor of Buffalo, and Rod Brind'Amour tied the game with a blazing one-timer from the right face-off dot on the power play at 10:04 of the second.
"It's tough giving up a two-goal lead," McKee said. "We came back from a lot of two goal deficits throughout the season and have been as successful as we have because of that. They are no different."
Toni Lydman pick pocketed Mike Commodore at the red line, raced into the Carolina zone and faked Gerber to the right post before slipping the puck around the netminder's right pad for his first goal of the postseason and a 3-1 Buffalo lead at 1:55 of the second.
Forcing another turnover with pressure, Buffalo took the 2-1 lead. Derek Roy
stripped Stillman along the half boards, skated into the slot and snapped a wristshot into the top-right corner of the net for his fifth goal of the playoffs at 17:32.
Taylor Pyatt's long feed to Chris Drury sprung the center on a breakaway for Buffalo's first goal. Drury fired a slapshot that beat Martin Gerber just inside the left post for his ninth goal of the postseason at 7:08 of the first.
Just 17 seconds later, Justin Williams one-timed Stillman's pass from the corner between Miller's legs to tie the score 1-1.
"It's a half inch here or there, and it's a different game," McKee said.
--------------------------------------------- SCORING REPORTS
| Super Stats
| Faceoff Comp
| Play By Play
| Shift Chart
Quotes courtesy of WGR 550-AM, the official radio partner of the Buffalo Sabres.