Stillman’s OT goal boots Habs

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MONTREAL – Forget about the Carolina Hurricanes’ slow start. They fashioned a fine finish and knocked out the Montreal Canadiens.

Cory Stillman scored 1:19 into overtime and the Hurricanes eliminated the Canadiens with a 2-1 win Tuesday night. After dropping the first two games of the best-of-seven series at home, Carolina roared back to win four straight – three in Montreal.

The Hurricanes will face the New Jersey Devils in the second round and have home-ice advantage.

Stillman took a pass from captain Rod Brind’Amour in the neutral zone and drove a slap shot from the top of the left circle over Cristobal Huet’s left shoulder.

The puck, which struck defenseman Craig Rivet’s stick on its way past Huet, hit the right post and settled into the net behind the Montreal goalie, silencing the sellout crowd that hoped to see the Canadiens force a seventh game back in Carolina.

Rookie Cam Ward won his fourth straight start, stopping 25 shots. Mark Recchi scored his first goal of the playoffs for the Hurricanes.

Huet made 27 saves, many of which kept the Canadiens in the game, including a sensational right pad stop on Chad Larose in the final minute of regulation.

Sheldon Souray scored his third of the series on a power play in the first before Recchi tied it 1-1 just 30 seconds later.

Montreal tied its longest drought between Stanley Cup wins.

The Canadiens reached the playoffs for the third time in four seasons but they have won just three of 10 playoff series since 1993, the year they captured their 24th Stanley Cup title – the 23rd since the NHL was formed in 1917.

The Canadiens also went 13 years without a championship between 1931-44.

Carolina has closed out a series in its last four opportunities. The Hurricanes also earned Game 6 victories against New Jersey, Montreal and Toronto in the first three rounds in 2002 before the Detroit Red Wings eliminated them in five games in the Stanley Cup finals.

Sabres 7, Flyers 1

PHILADELPHIA – Buffalo’s playoff road struggles are over. So is Philadelphia’s season.

The Sabres dominated from the first faceoff, flexing their scoring muscle in a 7-1 win that put them in the Eastern Conference semifinals for the first time in five years and extended the Flyers’ Stanley Cup drought to 30 seasons.

Chris Drury scored twice and Ryan Miller had 21 saves for the Sabres, who won the best-of-seven series in six games and will play Northeast Division-rival Ottawa in the second round.

The Carolina Hurricanes eliminated Montreal just moments after the Sabres dismissed Philadelphia to completed the first round in the East. Carolina will meet New Jersey in the conference’s other semifinal.

Mike Grier, Alex Kotalik and Derek Roy all scored for Buffalo in the first period to take the life out of a raucous crowd and make Philadelphia wait 40 more miserable minutes for its inevitable elimination.

The Sabres did what no team had done in the series – win on the roadBuffalo took all three games at home and Philadelphia won Games 3 and 4, giving the Sabres an edge even if a Game 7 was forced.

Buffalo made that a moot point in a hurry. The Sabres outshot, outworked and outplayed the Flyers, who have rallied from a 3-2 deficit to win a series only once in team history.

The result should have seemed familiar to fans in both cities: The Sabres eliminated the Flyers 8-0 in Game 6 of the first round in 2001. That was the last season the Sabres reached the semis or were in the playoffs.

After losing 3-0 in Game 5 on Sunday, Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock promised that his team would be better. Hitchcock made predictions about as well as Robert Esche stopped shots.

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