- The challenge the Carolina Hurricanes faced coming into tonight’s game was staying the course, despite not seeing results in their first two outings. The team responded in a big way, turning their many opportunities into goals as the offensive floodgates opened in a 6-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres. Eric Staal led the way with a hat trick, Jeff Skinner added a pair of goals and Justin Faulk tallied shorthanded. Cam Ward made 30 saves on 33 shots in the winning effort. “It’s big to get that first win,” Skinner said. “You don’t want to go too long without it.”
- The Captain was fired up tonight. Just nine seconds after Skinner scored his second goal to make it 3-2 Hurricanes, Staal raced into the offensive zone, stopped and started to open up Enroth and slid the puck five-hole. In the third period, Joni Pitkanen made an aggressive pinch and then found Staal open in the far circle with a tape-to-tape pass. Staal corralled the puck and sniped it home. He finished off his 13th hat trick of his career with an empty-net tally. “We know internally we have a good team. We didn’t get the results the first two games, but hey, there are a lot of good teams battling through things,” he said. “We need to stay confident and stay the course. It was nice to be rewarded with that tonight.”
- After being outscored 6-0 in the opening frame in their first two games, getting out of the first period scoreless was a big victory for the Hurricanes. The team was strong out of the gate, outshooting the Sabres 6-0 in the first seven minutes, despite having to kill off a penalty. After 20 minutes, the Canes were outshooting Buffalo 7-6 and had killed three penalties. That momentum led to Skinner’s goal just 1:02 into the second period, as the Canes snatched their first lead of the season. As head coach Kirk Muller said after the game, a scoreless first period is OK. And it certainly beats the alternative the team had faced in its first two games.
- The second line of Skinner, Jordan Staal and Zac Dalpe was consistently matched up with the Sabres’ top line. Even still, they contributed six of the team’s 13 points on the night and seemed to display some real chemistry that, to this point, had been virtually absent. Each player on that line finished with two points; Skinner had two goals, and Staal and Dalpe had two assists a piece. “I think we were getting pucks deep and getting them back for some good offensive zone time. They found me a couple of times in the slot,” Skinner said. “We clicked pretty well tonight.”
- After leading 2-0 in the second and suddenly finding the game tied no more than six minutes later, the Hurricanes’ confidence could just have easily evaporated. To see the team respond just over three minutes later with two goals within nine seconds of one another was a positive sign. As a note from CanesPR, the fastest two goals in franchise history came on March 28, 1987 when Sylvain Turgeon scored twice in just six seconds. The nine-second gap was the fastest since Nov. 24, 2006 when Justin Williams and Erik Cole scored in the same timeframe.
- The defense, after looking lost at times in the first two games, came together nicely tonight. Jamie McBain jumped in for his 2012-13 season debut and hit a comfortable stride with Pitkanen. Bobby Sanguinetti, who skated with Jay Harrison, seemed to find his game, as well. “We thought Harry would be a good partner to calm him down a little bit and take some pressure off him,” Muller said. “We spent less time in our zone, so we had more energy to go offensively, whereas the first two games, we wasted all our energy defending.”
- The Hurricanes and Sabres will do this again Friday night in Buffalo to close out the home-and-home, back-to-back set. Muller wouldn’t tip his hand on the lineup or starting goaltender. For now, the team is going to enjoy the hard-fought two points. “We got timely goals here tonight,” Muller said. “The game was at a quick pace, way quicker than the first two games, and we capitalized at the right times.”
Staal capped his night with an empty-net goal, giving the Hurricanes their first win of the season.
With the Hurricanes protecting a 4-3 lead in the third period, Pitkanen found Staal for a blast over the shoulder of Sabres goaltender Jhonas Enroth.
Jason Pominville had pulled Buffalo within one goal three minutes earlier when Thomas Vanek completed a beautiful give-and-go with the captain. Vanek cut to the slot before throwing a pass behind him to Pominville, who had a tap-in for his second goal of the night.
Carolina broke open a 2-2 game in the second period by scoring twice in nine seconds. The Hurricanes had scored two goals total in two losses to open the season.
Skinner gathered a loose puck behind the net and tucked it inside the right post at 13:56. Off the ensuing faceoff, Eric Staal broke free through the slot and slipped a backhander through Enroth's five-hole to give Carolina a 4-2 lead.
The Hurricanes started the second period with a purpose after the teams endured lulls through a scoreless first.
Skinner sent a backhander to the top shelf a little over one minute into the period, giving the Hurricanes their first lead of the season. Jordan Staal slipped a pass to an uncovered Skinner in front of the net. Zac Dalpe also earned an assist.
Carolina widened the lead to 2-0 when Justin Faulk found the net shorthanded. The play started when Jordan Staal broke up a diagonal pass in the Sabres offensive zone. Faulk carried the puck on a 3-on-1 and beat Enroth along the ice.
The Sabres scored a pair of goals less than two minutes apart. Cody Hodgson cut lead in half when he cleaned up a long rebound from Jordan Leopold's shot from the right point at 8:50. Moments later, Pominville tied the game from his knees -- Christian Ehrhoff fired to the slot, where Pominville reached out to redirected the puck past Ward at 10:39.
Neither team could find its offensive gear in the first period. Buffalo went 7:35 before registering a on goal and settled for six despite three full power plays. Carolina had plenty of jump in the first few shifts but managed seven first-period shots.
The teams move on to Buffalo on Friday night to complete a home-and-home series at First Niagra Center.