For the hockey diehards lucky enough to witness the electric madness of Game 7 in person, there were scores of jolting little deaths and sudden revivals.
With every mad rush up the ice by the Canes or Sabres, hopes and fears would rise with the hammering pace of a fan’s heartbeat.
With every furious scramble in front of a wide-mouthed goal, anticipation or dread would flood the brain, frozen by slow-moving seconds of blurred ice action and a long-held breath.
Every body-slamming hit brought a roar of delight or indignation.
Every red light and horn blast signaled Armageddon or salvation, doom or rapture.
And when that final horn sounded, only Caniacs felt the renewal of victory, the flush of the Eastern Conference championship and the fresh, bright chance of winning Lord Stanley’s battered cup.
Inspirational Brind’Amour scores winner as Canes reach finalsCarolina storms back from 2-1 down to defeat Buffalo in Game 7. Now, only the Oilers can spoil the Canes’ run to the Stanley Cup.
So goes the maxim: all good things must come to an end.
Unfortunately for the Buffalo Sabres, those good things – 63 total wins – fell five short of the ending the team and Western New York longed for – Lord Stanley’s Cup.
The Sabres, chipped and cracked from the barrage of a thousand blows, finally fell, unable to endure the force of one more jolt.
No, they didn’t crumble. They didn’t fall to pieces. They simply gave out while trying to keep everything together and accomplish what would have been a miraculous feat.
The patchwork Sabres, plagued by a fourth substantial loss on defense when veteran Jay McKee developed a strep infection, actually had a lead with about 18 minutes to go until the Stanley Cup finals.
That lead didn’t hold up. The Carolina Hurricanes ended the Sabres’ storybook run by scoring three third-period goals and winning, 4-2, in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference finals Thursday night in the RBC Center.
“Those guys in the room are a special group that never used an excuse all year long,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “Even tonight, they gave it everything they absolutely had.”