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Offense Misfires in Game 4

by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres
Games Four continue to haunt the Buffalo Sabres. Friday night, the Carolina Hurricanes needed just one goal to tie the Eastern Conference Finals as Martin Gerber made 22 saves in a 4-0 shutout victory over the Sabres at HSBC Arena.

Gerber has been the rock that Carolina is creating its momentum from. Since replacing Cam Ward with six minutes remaining in the second period of Game Three, the 31-year-old netminder has not allowed a single goal - stopping all 29 shots he has faced - and has pushed Carolina into a 2-2 tie in the best-of-seven series. The pivotal Game Five shifts back to the RBC Center on Sunday.

"I thought (Gerber) played great," said head coach Lindy Ruff. "He made some key saves. Nothing got by him and nothing got through him."

"He played a good game," said defenseman Jay McKee referring to Gerber. "We just have to find the back of the net sooner rather than later."

With the loss, Buffalo remained winless in the fourth game of any best-of-seven series since 2001, including this season.

As happened with the conference finals, the Sabres allowed Philadelphia to tie its first round series 2-2 with a lackluster performance in Game Four, while the Ottawa Senators ruined Buffalo bid for a sweep in the conference semifinals with a win in the fourth of that series, its only victory.

"Tonight just came down to us not being able to finish," said McKee. "There's a very fine line between winning and losing."

And that line is execution. Carolina converted the chances they created, while Buffalo missed time and time again.

Coming into the contest, Ruff stated his team needed a strong offensive attack for success. Buffalo generated just seven shots in the second period and four in the third after falling behind 2-0 in the first.

"We didn't work hard enough for our breaks tonight," said Derek Roy. "It's disappointing to play like that at home and not get a win to go up 3-1 in the series."

"As a group of forwards, we felt we didn't get enough pucks to the net," added Mike Grier. "We didn't get as much traffic to the net as we wanted to and they did a good job blocking shots."

The Sabres didn't help their cause, as the power play couldn't find any semblance of rhythm, failing to score on four opportunities. Recording just one shot on goal in their first three power plays, Ruff switched to five forwards on the unit at one point in the third.

"Our power play wasn't very good tonight," said Ruff. "It never put us in a situation to get us back in the game and that probably hurt us more than anything."

Carolina jumped out to a two-goal lead by the midpoint of the first period after beating Miller twice in its first five shots.

Mark Recchi redirected Frantisek Kaberle's slapshot from the left point between the rookie netminder's legs for the Hurricanes' first goal at 6:54, while Eric Staal scored his seventh of the postseason at 9:53 with a wristshot from the right face-off dot on the power play.

"The more we tried to gamble, the more we opened ourselves up," said Ruff. "It was a night where we got frustrated, tried a lot of individual stuff and didn't capitalize in some situations."

Andrew Ladd made the score 3-0, hustling down the slot to Doug Weight's rebound before chipping the puck over Miller's right pad at 2:10 of the second.

"I thought our defense played pretty well," said Ruff. "I'm not looking at defense as an excuse for losing because I don't think the defense hurt us that much."

A Jeff Jillson turnover at Buffalo's blueline led to a two-on-one rush where Bret Hedican's across-ice pass deflected off Brian Campbell's skate into the net to make the score 4-0 at 16:03 of the third.
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