Facing elimination in sudden death overtime, Daniel Briere scored at 4:22 to give Buffalo the 2-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals.
The game-winning goal came on the power play following Doug Weight's boarding penalty and snapped Buffalo's 0-14 drought with the man advantage. Briere's wristshot from near the blueline was innocent enough, but deflected off Cam Ward's glove and bounced into the net.
"It's that time of year where guys have to step up," said Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff. "I used the line its Mark Messier time. We need the individuals to make a difference in the game."
"We just seem to find a way," said center Chris Drury.
Ruff was referring to Messier's guarantee of a New York Rangers' win in Game Six of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals when New York trailed the New Jersey Devils three games to two. Messier scored five goals in the final two games, including a hat trick in Game Six, as the Rangers advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals.
As in 1994, the victory breaths new life into a Sabres season that was on the brink and pushes the best-of-seven series to Game Seven. The winner-take-all match-up is scheduled for this Thursday at the RBC Center.
Ruff pointed to that series as an example for Briere early Tuesday morning.
"Before the game, all we were looking for was to get to Game Seven," said Briere, who finished with a goal and an assist. "It's exciting and to get it done here in front of our fans makes it even sweeter.
"We've won over there and know we can win in Carolina."
Similar to Game Five, a contest where Buffalo lost in overtime, the Sabres came out flying in the first period. Buffalo out shot Carolina 14-5 and would have scored more than JP Dumont's goal if it wasn't for rookie netminder Cam Ward, who finished the game with 29 saves. Ryan Miller
matched Ward with 25.
"We just wanted to keep playing our game," said Ruff. "We really felt we were the better team and wanted to keeping working at it.
"The disappointing part was that we didn't take advantage of some really good opportunities. When you let a team hang around, and we let them hang around, they got the break they needed and tied the game."
Buffalo held that one-goal lead until Bret Hedican scored with a wristshot from the left face-off dot with less than four minutes remaining in regulation. As has been the way with the Sabres all season, the team didn't panic and Briere ended the game less than five minutes into the extra period.
"The way we were skating in the first period, I had confidence the whole game," Briere said. "I wasn't even nervous when they tied the game, it wasn't a big deal. We played so well we knew we were going to get a bounce."
Dumont scored his seventh of the postseason at 4:54 in the first after collecting some garbage in front. Fighting his way to the top of the crease, Dumont controlled Briere's rebound and flipped a shot over Ward's glove for the only score of the opening two periods of play.
The goal came on Buffalo's third shot on goal and was assisted by Briere and Brian Campbell, snapping a six-game scoreless drought for the defenseman.
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