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Cup champs swept away Quick strikes spark 4-1 win Offense picks up the pace after collecting just one shot in first period

The Buffalo Sabres glanced up at the shot counter before they trudged to their dressing room at the first intermission and couldn't have been too proud of what they saw.

There, for everyone to see, was the slenderest of digits. One shot was all the Sabres could generate through 20 minutes Thursday night against the Carolina Hurricanes at HSBC Arena.

Such meager offense didn't create the most comfortable mood, especially not when the Sabres had the chance to complete a season sweep of the team that terminated their Stanley Cup run in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference finals.

Things were said. Bluntly.

"I basically said we didn't go to work," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "We didn't work. We didn't care about working. I thought we cheated our fans. We cheated everybody. Maybe we used that 20 minutes to learn how to play again. . . . I was very disappointed."

The Sabres responded straight away in the second period, exploding for two goals in the first three minutes to finally help puck-stopping fiend Ryan Miller and beat the Hurricanes, 4-1, in front of another sellout crowd of 18,690.

The victory not only snapped Carolina's five-game win streak, it ensured Buffalo would take all four regular-season games between them.

"They've been on a bit of a roll," Miller said. "After the first period, we really started moving the puck. It was a great start to the second period."

Jason Pominville and Chris Drury scored 91 seconds apart, and Thomas Vanek struck later in the period. Ales Kotalik made good on a penalty shot with 42 seconds left in the game.

"I would have rather have won Game Seven," Drury said. "They're the Stanley Cup champs. Until someone else is, they have that crown. It's something we get up for. Certainly, they ended our season last year. It wasn't lost on us, these four outings. We're pretty happy to sweep them."

Said Kotalik: "You can almost see yourself playing in the Stanley Cup finals. That's something you'll never forget. It's always special playing against them and getting a little payback."

But, as much as Buffalo's off-again, on-again offense was discussed after the game, defenseman Toni Lydman said "Let's not forget Mr. Miller. It was a great performance again."

Miller made 29 saves and allowed the Sabres to find their game by stopping all 10 he saw in the first period.

Craig Adams scored a short-handed goal to spoil Miller's shutout bid with 69 seconds remaining. Adams' long shot from the top of the right circle fluttered through Miller's right armpit and rib cage.

Hurricanes goalie John Grahame, who made the U.S. Olympic team last winter while Miller stayed home, didn't have much to worry about in the first period. The only shot the Sabres managed to get on net came 2:51 into the game. From there, the Sabres couldn't figure out a way to meander through the Hurricanes defense and were outshot, 10-1, despite a power play.

"A lot that shouldn't be printed," Lydman said of what transpired between periods. "It's not good enough and we know it. We didn't come close to playing as well as we could in the first period."

Pominville scored 1:21 into the second period on Buffalo's third shot. Jochen Hecht at the top of the crease quickly slipped a rebound to Pominville at the left post. Pominville has 17 goals, four in his past four games.

Just two shots and 91 seconds later, Drury whacked home his own rebound from the top of the crease to give the Sabres a 2-0 lead and induce Carolina coach Peter Laviolette into using his timeout.

Vanek added to Buffalo's cushion with 3:42 left in the second period. Jaroslav Spacek took a slap shot from the point, but Vanek was at the top of the crease to collect the rebound and reach around the goalie with a long forehand.

Drury and Vanek each have 20 goals. They are the first Sabres to have scored that many before the New Year since the epic 1992-93 campaign, when Dave Andreychuk, Pat LaFontaine and Alexander Mogilny did it.

Thirty-seven seconds after Adams ruined Miller's shutout, Kotalik scored on a penalty shot with the Sabres still on the power play. Erik Cole hauled him down on a breakaway. Kotalik scored on his free shot, giving him five goals in his past five games.

Otherwise, the Sabres struggled on the power play. Kotalik's goal was their only conversion on five tries. On their first four chances they took a combined two shots.

e-mail: tgraham@buffnews.com

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Sabres 4, Hurricanes 1

Slap shots: Sabres have three-goal spurt in second period after one shot in first ... Miller misses shutout by 69 seconds ... Drury, Vanek score 20th goals.

Fast fact: Pominville has four goals and two assists in past four games.

Next game: Atlanta Thrashers, 7 p.m. Saturday at HSBC Arena.

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