Hurricanes rattle Sabres

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) – Credit the Carolina Hurricanes for being the first team in the postseason to get the Buffalo Sabres off their game.

“There was a little bit of frustration,” co-captain Daniel Briere said regarding the team’s mood before practice Tuesday. “Nobody was happy with our play.”

“Everyone should be pretty angry,” added defenseman Jay McKee.

The Sabres were flat Monday in a 4-3 loss at Raleigh that tied their Eastern Conference final at 1-1. The best-of-seven series shifts to Buffalo for Games 3 and 4 on Wednesday and Friday.

“We’re going to be a lot better tomorrow,” McKee said. “If we’re not, we’re not going to go very far in this series.”

The young and skilled Sabres, who have yet to trail in a series this postseason, have gotten this far by being the better, more patient team while dispatching Philadelphia in six games and top-seeded Ottawa in five in the first two rounds. After sneaking out a 3-2 win at Carolina in Game 1, Buffalo found the going far tougher Monday in a game which the score did not reflect the Hurricanes’ dominance.

Carolina outshot Buffalo 35-19, out-hit the Sabres 25-14 and blocked more shots, 16-11 – the Hurricanes, in essence, beating the Sabres at their own style. Carolina flustered Buffalo’s forwards by taking away the neutral zone, where the speedy Sabres like to generate their rush, and clogged the front of their own net, limiting Buffalo’s chances to the perimeter.

The Sabres, who never led, scored all three goals on the power play, their last two coming on two-man advantages, including Derek Roy’s goal with three seconds remaining and Buffalo’s goalie pulled.

“I don’t know if we got under their skin,” Hurricanes defenseman Glen Wesley said. “We played the way we were capable of playing. … It was desperation time for us. We had to come out and we had to win.”

Now it’s up to the Hurricanes to show they can produce a similar effort on the road. “That’s going to be the plan,” Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette said. “We’re going to come out with the same urgency. … We’re going to have to be ready to play. We know Buffalo has a good team.”

At 9-4, the Hurricanes have the same record as Buffalo this postseason and are 4-1 on the road. The Sabres are 4-1 at home.

The coaches have taken turns trying to get whatever edge they can with the officials. Laviolette and Buffalo’s Lindy Ruff have accused their opponents are diving to draw penalties.

Laviolette got off the first shot following Game 2, unhappy with the officiating and the four penalties his team received in the third period.

It was Ruff’s turn Tuesday.

“I think what we tried to do was take a page from them,” Ruff said. “You don’t have to touch them and down they go. I think you’ve got to fight fire with fire.”

Laviolette shrugged off Ruff’s comments after he and the Hurricanes arrived in Buffalo late Tuesday afternoon.

“I don’t think we have any divers on our team,” Laviolette said. “Let me put it this way, if our guys are diving, I hope that they go to the box.”

Not much else separates two teams that each won 52 games in the regular season and were separated by two points in the standings.

Buffalo has run into injury trouble, down two regular defenseman, including Teppo Numminen, who missed Monday’s game because of a possible groin or hamstring strain.

Numminen, the Sabres steadiest blue-liner, is listed as day to day, but did not practice Tuesday. Buffalo is also minus defenseman Dmitri Kalinin, who’s week to week with an ankle injury and play-making center Tim Connolly (possible concussion), who’s listed as day to day.

The Sabres have newfound respect for the Hurricanes.

Defenseman Brian Campbell said the Sabres might have taken their opponents too lightly after winning Game 1.

“Maybe we did,” Campbell said. “We won Game 1 and thought the second game was going to be easy and that we could just walk through it. … Maybe it’s a good wake-up call for us.”

AP-ES-05-23-06 1842EDT

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