RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- The Carolina Hurricanes were playing for
the top seed in the Eastern Conference, an opportunity for home ice
through the first three rounds of the playoffs.
The Buffalo Sabres? Simply winning another game was all the
motivation they needed.
"Give these guys credit," Buffalo goaltender Martin Biron
said. "They could have just gone through the motions, mailed it
in. We haven't done that all year."
Chris Drury scored to reach 30 goals for the first time in his
NHL career, Biron got his first shutout of the season and the
Sabres beat Carolina 4-0 Tuesday night to drop the Hurricanes out
of the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
J.P. Dumont had two goals and Brian Campbell added another for
the Sabres, who completed their regular season with five straight
victories. They will be the No. 4 seed in the playoffs, where they
will play Philadelphia in the first round.
"We just wanted to keep it rolling, try going into the playoffs
with a win and not have any letdowns," said Drury, who had four
goals in the final three games. "We wanted to get on the plane
with two points and keep it rolling."
The Hurricanes are headed the other way, losing for the fourth
time in the final five games to settle for second in the East.
Goaltender Martin Gerber hardly has been sharp down the stretch and
gave up at least three goals for the seventh straight.
Carolina will play Montreal in the first round after Northeast
Division champ Ottawa secured the best record by beating the New
York Rangers 5-1.
"That game could've been the 33rd, the 56th or the 82nd game,"
Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette said. "The season is 82 games,
and you have to play all 82. You can't judge 82 games by one game.
In the end, collectively, if you look at the entire 82 games, it
was a great year."
Buffalo jumped ahead early and never really slowed down to
increase its franchise record for victories to 52. With Carolina's
Josef Vasicek in the penalty box for tripping, Dumont used a nifty
pass from Maxim Afinogenov to score less than four minutes after
the opening face-off.
The Sabres increased the margin to 2-0 after keeping the
pressure on in the offensive zone. Eventually, Daniel Briere got
the puck to Campbell, and he took his time to get close to the net.
A quick slap shot sneaked through Gerber's right arm and his chest,
and it trickled in to put the Hurricanes two goals down.
"You can't win giving up that many no matter how well you play
offensively," Carolina captain Rod Brind'Amour said. "You have to
shut other teams down. We're erratic, too erratic, I think."
It was more than enough for Biron, who started for the first
time in nearly two weeks. He and normal starter Ryan Miller are one
of only four goaltender tandems in the NHL with 20 victories each,
and they give coach Lindy Ruff a nice luxury for the postseason.
"It feels great," Biron said. "I got a chance to play, and it
was definitely good to be back in the pipes and good to play the
way we did."
Biron made 33 saves, including two on short-handed breakaways by
Carolina center Kevyn Adams.
"It was a great team effort," Ruff said. "Marty made the big
saves when we needed them, and I thought we had some great support
around him. Overall, that was as good a game as we've played all
Carolina RW Mark Recchi played in his 83rd game of the
season, thanks to a midseason trade with Pittsburgh. ... Buffalo
won its final four road games and finished 25-13-3 away from home,
the most road victories in the Eastern Conference. ... Hurricanes
LW Erik Cole, who missed his 22nd game with a fractured vertebra,
will have a CT scan on Wednesday to see how he's healing.