Buffalo deserved to win Game 6 Tuesday. Then again, Cam Ward didn't deserve to lose.
Something had to give, and eventually that something would be the catching glove of Carolina's rookie goalie.
The glove was quick enough all right – it was all night, as Ward stopped 29 of the 30 shots he faced in regulation – but on Buffalo's last shot, the Sabres' first in the overtime period, it wasn't strong enough to hold the puck.
So the puck fluttered skyward and drifted behind Ward. The next time the hard-luck goalie would see that puck, it was illuminated by the spotlight the crew at HSBC arena uses to signal a goal.
Game over. Game 7 on.
Buffalo deserves all the credit in the world for coming out strong, not timid, in Tuesday's elimination game. In a frenetic first period the Sabres out-shot the Hurricanes 14-5, out-hit them 16-5 and played nearly the entire period in the Carolina zone.
Daniel Briere's line came out flying and didn't let up until that overtime goal. Mike Grier came out hitting and didn't stop until he had registered eight hits. He put one Carolina skater on the seat of his pants twice in a 10-second span in the third period.
And Buffalo held another block party. Deflected shots have been a big story in this series and once again the Sabres held a big advantage, blocking 26 shots to Carolina's 11.
So the team that played better Tuesday won, which is not always the case when a hot goaltender has a say in matters. It was a much-deserved win – one that sets up the Game 7 that hockey fans deserve.
If there's one series that should go on, it's this one. The Ryan Miller-Cam Ward rookie goalie matchup has been captivating. The end-to-end action has been riveting, too. And with five one-goal games already in the books, there's no reason not to anticipate another dramatic tilt in Game 7.
THIRD STAR OF THE DAY
It's a copout, but Buffalo's defensemen get a collective star. Teppo Numminen gave it a shot in Game 6. Whether his presence on the bench gave the team an emotional lift or not is debatable, but he sure wasn't much help on the ice, calling it a night after six shifts and four-plus minutes of ice time. Jay McKee (5 hits), Brian Campbell, Rory Fitzpatrick (3 blocked shots) and Toni Lydman (7 blocked shots) each logged more than 25 minutes of ice time to pick up the slack. Carolina's Eric Staal had only one shot in the third period and was held without a point for the first time since his playoff opener.
SECOND STAR OF THE DAY
There's no game-tying goal, no overtime, no questionable penalty calls and no-calls, no drama at all really if not for the play of Ward. The first period unfolded on one half of the ice as Buffalo totally dominated the action, outshooting the "Canes 14-5. But because Ward carried his solid play from Game 5 into this elimination game, the score was only 1-0. Of course he wants that overtime goal back, but when doesn't that apply to an OT goal?
FIRST STAR OF THE DAY
Your heart-and-soul guys need to deliver in elimination games and Daniel Briere did just that for Buffalo – in a big way. On his second shift of the game he displayed unbelievable patience in waiting out the Carolina defense before finding an opening for a wrist shot. Ward would stop it, but was defenseless on J.P. Dumont's rebound. The game-winning goal in overtime was a bit flukey, but it was born of hard work in the Carolina zone. Every member of the Briere-J.P. Dumont-Jason Pominville combo had at least three shots in Game 6.
On Monday, Sabres defenseman Teppo Numminen was doubtful. By Tuesday, however, he decided to give it a go, bad hip-flexor or not. Courageous? Sure. But when he called it a night after four minutes of ice time, he left the injury-riddled Buffalo blueline seriously depleted. It started to show in the third period when Carolina got the best of the action, tied the game and held a 12-6 shot advantage. Buffalo was essentially playing four defensemen, so who knows what would have happened in an extended overtime. It was a risky move for Numminen. One that didn't pay off.
Doug Weight watched from the penalty box as Briere's game-winning goal floated over the goal line. Officially he was whistled for boarding, though it looked more like checking from behind. If you ask Weight, Buffalo forward Jason Pominville was guilty of diving. He said as much after the game, though in the same breath admitted he should have been "smarter" on the play. Indeed Weight should have known better. It's the type of penalty that is getting called this year, and Weight steamrolled Pominville in the offensive zone. It's not like it was a desperation play to stop a goal.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR THURSDAY
Game 7: Buffalo Sabres at Carolina Hurricanes: – Will Teppo Numminen try again in Game 7? If he does, you'd better believe Carolina's first order of business will be laying a body or two on him. If he doesn't go, can Buffalo get by using four defensemen in a road Game 7? Carolina will certainly want to test that defense early. That didn't happen in Game 6 when the Hurricanes came out on their heels.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT Watch
Sadly, no replay of the Doug Weight penalty that set up Buffalo's game-winning power-play. But you make the call on the overtime goal: Did Briere create that scoring chance by dragging down Carolina forward Justin Williams? We'll be hearing a lot about that non-call in the next 48 hours.