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Briere, Sabres rally for 2-1 series lead vs. Hurricanes

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- Daniel Briere felt bad enough already and
didn't need Sabres coach Lindy Ruff reminding him and his linemates
how poorly they played at Carolina.

Buffalo's co-captain quickly made up for it, scoring twice in a
4-3 win over the Hurricanes on Wednesday night that gave the Sabres
a 2-1 edge in the Eastern Conference finals.

"We knew we didn't do the job," Briere said, referring to
Buffalo's 4-3 loss in Game 2 on Monday. "We knew we had to improve
our play. ... We knew we had to make a bigger difference and we
did."

Ruff's reminder came during a brief meeting at mid-ice following
the Sabres practice on Tuesday. The coach was unhappy after
Briere's line combined for two shots in the defeat.

"Everybody thinks it's Lindy," added J.P. Dumont, who assisted
on both of Briere's goals. "But we've got character on our line.
We didn't need that meeting. It just rang the bell a little bit."

Ales Kotalik had a goal and assist, and Chris Drury also scored
in helping Buffalo score four consecutive goals to take a 4-1 lead
13 minutes into the second period, taking advantage of Carolina's
lack of discipline.

Buffalo converted two of seven power-play chances, while
Kotalik's eventual winner came on a delayed penalty when he fired a
shot in from inside the blue line after Carolina's Mike Commodore
was called for holding the stick of defenseman Toni Lydman.

The win didn't come easy in a series in which all three games
have been decided by one goal.

Eric Staal cut the lead to 4-3 with 4:08 remaining, but Buffalo
weathered the final flurry in which Carolina outshot the Sabres
11-4 in the third period and 3-0 in the last 2 minutes.

Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller stopped Ray Whitney in the slot
with 13 seconds remaining and Sabres rookie Jason Pominville got
his skate out to block the Hurricanes' final shot, Matt Cullen's
slapper from the top of the left circle.

"We continued to work hard," Staal said. "We had our chances.
There were a couple of blocks there at the end and Miller made some
big saves and it just wasn't enough."

Game 4 of the best-of-seven series is Friday at Buffalo.

Cory Stillman scored twice for Carolina, which failed to carry
over the momentum of the Game 2 victory. Things became so bad that
rookie goalie Cam Ward was pulled in favor of backup Martin Gerber
after giving up four goals on 26 shots.

Ward wasn't the problem.

"We were in the box the whole time," Stillman said. "And when
we're doing that, we're not going after people."

"We were going to the penalty box and they were making some big
plays," Commodore added. "I don't know if they caught us
off-guard, but it was the difference in the game."

The Sabres rebounded from their worst performance of the
postseason with one of their best and they did it without steady
defenseman Teppo Numminen, who missed his second straight game with
a lower body injury. Buffalo then lost another defenseman, Henrik
Tallinder, during the win.

Tallinder, who left with about 6 minutes remaining, is day to
day with an upper body injury.

The Sabres' rally began late in the first period when Drury,
from in front, tipped in Kotalik's point shot to tie it at 1 with a
power-play goal.

Briere scored the go-ahead goal -- converting Jochen Hecht's
rebound in front -- a minute into the second on another power play
with Doug Weight in the penalty box for hooking.

Briere made it 3-1 on a partial break at 8:28 of the second
period, and Kotalik scored 4 minutes later, firing in a 40-footer
that beat a screened Ward.

Carolina coach Peter Laviolette didn't fault Ward, saying he was
instead looking for a way to spark his team. Laviolette, however,
didn't say which goalie would start Friday. The Hurricanes coach is
usually reluctant to reveal his lineup in advance.

Gerber stopped seven shots and was sharp in keeping the game
close. He stopped Mike Grier and Derek Roy on short-handed
breakaways shortly after he entered the game. Gerber then made a
strong save in foiling Maxim Afinogenov on a breakaway 5 minutes
into the third.

Game notes
Staal extended his point streak to 13 games (six goals, 12
assists). That's five games short of matching the NHL playoff
record set by New York Islanders Bryan Trottier in 1981, and the
longest since Pavel Bure had a point in 16 straight games for
Vancouver in 1994. ... The Sabres are 6-2 in their last eight
playoff games -- all decided by one goal. ... Sabres C Jiri Novotny
played in place of LW Thomas Vanek.