October 4, 2006
By Brian Wheeler
The Carolina Hurricanes needed seven games during the 2006 Eastern Conference Finals to end the Buffalo Sabres' season. So it was fitting for the opening game of the 2006-07 season and Buffalo's first return trip to the RBC Center to be decided by a shootout.
In a game that featured a playoff-like atmosphere from a sellout crowd and the hoisting of Carolina's Stanley Cup banner to the rafters, the Sabres rained on Raleigh's parade.
Ryan Miller turned away all three Hurricane shooters during the shootout and Daniel Briere scored on Buffalo's first attempt as the Sabres defeated Carolina 3-2.
"It's nice to get that first win," said Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff. "It doesn't matter how you get it or how ugly it is."
Jason Pominville and Chris Drury were the beneficiaries of Buffalo's offensive strategy against goaltender Cam Ward. On both goals in regulation, Buffalo moved the puck laterally between defensemen at the point, positioned traffic in front of the net and redirected any shot they could get their sticks on.
Pominville and Drury seemed to be in the right place at the right time.
"You have to take what they give you," said Ruff. "A lot of times our defenseman had an opportunity to get a quick shot away from the outside."
Buffalo weathered a serious storm for the first ten minutes of play, getting outshot 13-7 in the first period. Forward Eric Staal registered six shots in that span by himself.
"We didn't come out very well and I thought they got about as good a start as you could ask for," said Ruff. "We were lucky to escape that span the way we did."
"We gave them a lot of shots from the outside," said co-captian Daniel Briere. "We knew we had to buckle down and bring everybody in front of the net."
Ryan Miller made some key saves during Carolina's barrage and Pominville abruptly took the wind out of the opposition's sails when he scored the first goal of the 2006-07 NHL regular season at the 9:09 mark of the first.
Coasting into the slot, the right winger from Repentigny, Quebec redirected Dmitri Kalinin wristshot from the point past Ward to give Buffalo the 1-0 lead.
"[Pominville's goal] was big," said Briere. "It gave us a sense of being in the game and the confidence to win."
Staal, who registered just one shot in the final three periods, tied the game with a wristshot from above the left faceoff circle with less than six minutes remaining in the opening period.
Carolina found the chink in Buffalo's power-play armor to take their first lead of the game in the second.
Controlling the puck at the point, Ray Whitney opened a passing lane with a shot fake and found Erik Cole all alone at the left post at 12:41.
Drury was credited with tying the game after Henrk Tallinder's wristshot, which was redirected by Derek Roy, deflected off his left thigh past Ward.
"Those early points are good to get in the season," said Briere. "It's a long season but if you can get a few like that it's a huge help down the road."
The Sabres home opener will be this Friday against the Montreal Canadiens at HSBC Arena. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Quotes courtesy of WGR 550-AM, the official radio partner of the Buffalo Sabres.
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