RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- Jay McKee was as surprised as anyone when his shot found the net, because he was blocked from seeing it and he just doesn't score too often.
"When you don't score many goals during the season or through your career, it's certainly a little more exciting when you do it in the playoffs," Buffalo's veteran defenseman said.
Particularly when it wins the game.
McKee got only the third goal in 46 career NHL playoff games seconds after leaving the penalty box, rookie Ryan Miller made 29 saves and the Sabres held off the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 on Saturday in the opener of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals.
Midway through the third period, McKee was sent off for holding, and after his teammates held strong during the ensuing power play, he got an opportunity. He patiently held the puck while traffic cleared and then skated deftly to his left before sending it past goalie Cam Ward.
He joked he learned the move from watching captain Daniel Briere in practice, and it was a bit out of character for a player who has scored 17 goals in 582 regular-season games. But he now has two this postseason -- he also scored in the first round against Philadelphia.
"I was hoping we wouldn't need it for the game-winner," McKee said. "I was kind of screened from the goalie. It was certainly exciting when I saw my guys coming to me."
Briere and Henrik Tallinder also scored for Buffalo, which improved to 5-2 on the road in the postseason in front of a small but boisterous group of its own fans. Game 2 is Monday night at the RBC Center.
"Right away, we knew the atmosphere was kind of special," Briere said. "Especially during the warmup, when they started chanting, 'Let's go Buffalo!' It's fun to see so many people driving here to support us."
Of course, the Hurricanes are accustomed to coming from behind. They were on the wrong end of a 6-0 score against Montreal in the opener of the first round and dropped Game 2 as well, yet advanced by winning the final four games. Now they will have to bounce back again.
"Whether you win or lose, you're always preparing for the next one," Carolina captain Rod Brind'Amour said. "The minute this one was over we're preparing for the next one. That's all you can really do."
Mike Commodore scored a shorthanded goal with about two minutes left to bring the Hurricanes within 3-2, but Buffalo survived even after Carolina pulled Ward for the extra skater. Chris Drury blocked Justin Williams' wrist shot and calmly fed the puck down the ice as the waning seconds ticked off the clock.
"They had a couple of bang-bang plays and missed the net on a few," Drury said. "I just wanted to block it and be done with it."
Brind'Amour tied it 1-1 with a pretty goal in the first period, gathering the puck after Buffalo defenseman Rory Fitzpatrick checked Cory Stillman hard near the blue line. Brind'Amour patiently skated in against Miller before lifting a shot into the top of the net.
"I thought he was going to shoot it earlier, I tried to stay with him," Miller said. "Smart shot, cross corner off the post."
The tally from Briere was even better.
It started with Miller, who cleared the puck from in front of his crease to Taylor Pyatt on the half wall. A quick pass found Jason Pominville, who wasted little time getting it to a streaking Briere. He got in front of Carolina's Bret Hedican and beat Ward with a backhanded shot.
"I saw him actually before I got the puck," Pominville said. "Taylor made a nice pass to me, and it kind of opened up. Danny was by himself, and he made a great backhand shot. It was a great goal."
That made it 2-1, and Miller did his part to hold the lead. He was the last line of defense as Buffalo killed off all four of its penalties against the postseason's top power play. The Hurricanes came in converting about 28 percent of their man-advantages through the first two rounds, but they couldn't keep it up.
"You've got to take what they give you," Brind'Amour said. "You're trying to get that shot and we definitely need to get more pucks to the net. There's no guarantee. There were many open chances but when you do get a chance, you've got to bury it."
Buffalo took the lead about three minutes after the opening faceoff when Tallinder knocked in a rebound following back-to-back brilliant saves by Ward, also a rookie. He stopped shots by Paul Gaustad and Jochen Hecht before Tallinder was able to score.
"The beauty of a seven-game series is that it is just one game," Ward said. "We're going to try to learn from it and come out firing in Game 2."
Carolina left winger Erik Cole, out with a broken vertebra in his neck, received a rousing ovation when shown on the scoreboard during the third period. He has resumed skating and hopes to return by the end of the playoffs. ... Buffalo defenseman Teppo Numminen left after the first period with a lower-body injury and didn't return, and coach Lindy Ruff said he was day-to-day. It left the Sabres with only five defensemen.