Sabres attempt to pin pressure on Hurricanes

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) – Pressure, what pressure?

The Sabres trail the Eastern Conference final series 3-2 to Carolina, but Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff did his best Monday to gain a psychological edge.

“The pressure falls on them,” Ruff said Tuesday of the top-seeded Hurricanes. “Oh, you’d hate to lose Game 6 and have to play Game 7. You’d never want to get in that situation because in one game, anything can happen.”

Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette wasn’t biting. Carolina can advance to the Stanley Cup finals against the Edmonton Oilers with a Game 6 win Tuesday night at Buffalo.

“He keeps talking about my hockey team and me and what we’re doing,” Laviolette said, with a shrug. “Sure, you always want to finish it up as soon as you can. Nobody wants to get pushed to a Game 7. … We get two cracks at it, the first crack is we want to take care of it (Tuesday) night.

Laviolette also wanted to get another thing straight, saying Ruff overstated his case when he said the Sabres outplayed Carolina in the Hurricanes’ 4-3 overtime win at home on Sunday.

“I don’t think it was as one-sided as Lindy led people to believe,” Laviolette said. “I mean, scoring chances were 24-15 for us, so I don’t know how you escape when you get that many scoring chances.”

Whether Ruff was right or not, his remarks helped deflect some of the attention focused on his young team that’s facing elimination for the first time this postseason.

“We’ve got nothing to lose,” Ruff said.

Despite coming off a game in which they squandered a 3-1 lead, the Sabres are focusing on positives. They are confident they’re capable of forcing Game 7, which would be played at Carolina on Thursday.

Buffalo chased Hurricanes starting goaltender Martin Gerber on Sunday, outshooting Carolina 9-4 over the final 29 minutes. The Sabres had the far better scoring opportunities – including Jochen Hecht’s tip-in chance from the slot in overtime – but lost on Cory Stillman’s power-play goal during a scramble in front.

It was a far better performance for a Sabres team that lost 4-0 in Game 4 and was still playing without three regular defensemen, including Teppo Numminen (groin), who is doubtful for Game 6.

“I know a lot of people think we’re done. But that’s not the way we see it,” Sabres co-captain Daniel Briere said. “We really believe we have something special that guys believe we can come back.”

The Hurricanes, attempting to reach the Stanley Cup finals for the second time in four seasons, are not taking the Sabres lightly.

“We know we’re not out of the woods,” captain Rod Brind’Amour said. “We’ve got to win the next game. And I know that’s all they’re saying. This will be the toughest one.”

Laviolette, as has been his long-standing policy, refused to discuss which goalie will start. Rookie Cam Ward stopped all 15 shots he faced after replacing Gerber, who allowed three goals on 11 shots.

That’s a turnaround after Gerber reclaimed his starting job with a 22-save shutout on Friday.

The Hurricanes are 4-0 – and have never lost Game 6 – when leading a series 3-2.

The Sabres are 1-12 in series they’ve trailed 3-2 and forced a Game 7 only four times. Their only series comeback came against Ottawa in 1997.

Only Anaheim has overcome a 3-2 deficit this postseason, eliminating Calgary in the first round.

Sabres co-captain Chris Drury knows firsthand what it’s like to rally back from a that deficit, playing for Colorado when the Avalanche came back against New Jersey to win the Stanley Cup in 2001.

“A lot of it is not looking ahead. You can’t win two games at once,” Drury said. “It doesn’t get any bigger than this as far as adversity goes. But we know if we play like we did, I like our chances. … We know we can rebound.”

Stillman played for Tampa Bay when it rebounded from 3-2 deficit against Calgary to capture the Cup in 2004.

“It happens,” Stillman said. “To sit and wait to see what’s going to happen would be a big mistake. … We need to win Game 6.”

AP-ES-05-29-06 1821EDT

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