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SABRES 3, HURRICANES 2

McKee's goal key for Sabres

RALEIGH, N.C. -- 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 very 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," said the veteran Buffalo defenseman.

Particularly when it wins the game.

McKee got only his third goal in 46 career playoff games seconds after leaving the penalty box, rookie Ryan Miller made 29 saves, and the Sabres held off the Carolina Hurricanes, 3-2, yesterday in the opener of their best-of-seven Eastern Conference final series.

Midway through the third period, McKee was sent off for holding, and after his teammates held during the ensuing power play, he got an opportunity. He patiently held the puck while traffic cleared, then skated deftly to his left before sending it past goalie Cam Ward.

He joked that 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.

''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.

''Right away, we knew the atmosphere was kind of special," Briere said. ''Especially during the warmup, when they started chanting, 'Let's go Buffalo!' "

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