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Jagr's OT Goal Sinks Sabres

The Buffalo Sabres lost the game but salvaged a critical point, managing to retain control of their postseason fate in the topsy-turvy Eastern Conference standings.

Jaromir Jagr scored a breakaway goal 13 seconds into overtime as the Pittsburgh Penguins clinched seventh place in the East with a 2-1 win over the Sabres on Friday night.

The Sabres earned a point for the regulation tie and moved into sole possession of the conference's final playoff berth, one point ahead of the idle Montreal Canadiens.

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  • The Sabres can clinch the berth outright with a win in their season finale at Washington on Sunday. Montreal finishes its regular season at home against Ottawa on Saturday.

    Sabres' coach Lindy Ruff had an inkling it would come down to this.

    "We put ourselves in a situation where we've gone 7-1-1 (actually 7-2-0-1) in our last nine and still haven't guaranteed anything. It's tough," Ruff said. "But in the same sense, we have a game where we still control destiny in our own hands."

    "Maybe that's meant to be."

    The regulation tie kept the Carolina Hurricanes mathematically in contention, trailing the Sabres by four points. The Hurricanes have two games left, both against expansion Atlanta, but would be eliminated by a loss or a tie in either of their final two games, a Montreal victory or a Buffalo tie.

    As soon as Friday's game ended, the Sabres were looking ahead to Sunday.

    "It's a big one. It's like Game 7. If we want to make it we've go to win," said Vaclav Varada, who scored for Buffalo in the second period.

    Jagr, the NHL's scoring leader, quickly and efficiently doused the Sabres' hopes when he got a tape-to-tape pass from Darius Kasparaitis and broke in over the Buffalo blueline.

    Cutting to the net, Jagr avoided defenseman Alexei Zhitnik, who dove and threw his stick. Hitting the brakes in front, Jagr then slid the puck past sprawling goalie Dominik Hasek, who just missed stopping the shot with the toe of his skate.

    Dan Trebil also scored for the Penguins, who have won five of their last six.

    "We had a meeting, we're in the playoffs, so let's try to play the best hockey we can play," Jagr said.

    The Sabres were minus Doug Gilmour, who continues to battle a stubborn stomach flu bug. After taking the pre-game skate, Gilmour told the coaching staff that he was too weak to play.

    Prior the game, the league announced an unprecedented one-game playoff would determine who gets the East's final postseason berth if the Sabres and Canadiens finish deadlocked on the three tiebreakers. The game would be played Monday, with the site to be determined by coin flip.

    Under NHL rules, if two teams end the season tied in points, the order of tiebreakers is victories, head-to-head records and goal differential. If there is still a deadlock, the commissioner decides how to break it.

    After Friday, the teams were even in the first two categories. The Sabres owned a plus-9 goal differential to Montreal's plus-4.

    The Penguins opened the scoring Friday on a lucky bounce when Trebil deflected Michal Rozsival's shot 1:38 into the game. The puck took a wild bounce off the ice and skipped over Hasek's left shoulder.

    The Sabres tied it 10:30 into the second period when Varada drove to the net and stuffed in a bouncing rebound off Michael Peca's hot shot. Varada extended his point streak to five games, while Vladimir Tsyplakov's assist gave him one goal and six points in his last six games.

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