- For two periods, the Carolina Hurricanes skated circles around the Buffalo Sabres, suffocating the visitors with an aggressive forecheck. In the third period, things came a bit unraveled, but as good teams do, the Canes found a way to hang on for the 4-3 victory. And at the end of the season, it won’t matter how the team got the two points. “They’ve been a little bit different,” said Eric Staal of his team’s four-game winning streak. “Getting the lead has helped. We’ve come out with pretty good starts, and tonight was no different. I thought we set the tone and tempo of the game early on.”
- Carolina’s win completed its season sweep of Buffalo, outscoring the Sabres 13-7 in three games. It was a communal effort in goal, as three different goaltenders contributed to those wins; Cam Ward won the first, Dan Ellis took the second and Justin Peters stepped in to make 37 saves in a winning effort tonight. It was Peters’ first NHL win since Feb. 20, 2012, when he made 17 saves in a 5-0 shutout over Washington. “We played a real good first period, really. That really allowed me to settle in. I felt confident,” Peters said. “You never want to see anyone go down, especially a good buddy like Cam, who is the backbone of this team. But with that being said, people need to step up and step in. Tonight, I was real fortunate to be able to have that opportunity.”
- Talking to players in the locker room after the game, the description of Peters that kept surfacing was that he was a competitor. That was on display tonight, as he maintained a calm presence in the crease. He made a highlight-reel save on Thomas Vanek, as he lunged over with his blocker hand to deny Vanek an easy goal in a vacant net (VIDEO LINK). “He’s a competitor,” head coach Kirk Muller said. “He came in ready to go. He’s been wanting to be here, and he’s showed that he’s prepared himself, he’s matured and he was ready for a big game. He took advantage of it and had a really strong effort.”
- The first line continues to roll, as Staal, Jiri Tlusty and Alexander Semin combined for seven points (2g, 5a), with Staal (3a) and Semin (1g, 2a) recording three points a piece. Semin scored his first goal at PNC Arena, a laser wrister that beat Miller and ended up being the game-winning tally. Staal recorded his 600th NHL point, the primary assist on Tlusty’s first-period goal. Staal would add two more primary helpers to bring his season total to 16, one shy of Semin’s team-leading 17. “It’s got to be up there as one of the top lines in the game,” Muller said. “They’re playing well at both ends of the ice, they’re plus players, they’re producing, they set the tempo a lot of nights right now with their play and they’re tough to handle down low. Those three guys together have great chemistry.”
- The Hurricanes have outscored their opponents 7-2 in the first period in their last four games, and they’ve taken a lead to the locker room after 20 minutes in three straight games. The Canes are 4-0-0 when leading after one period and 9-0-0 when leading after two periods.
- The Canes will look to extend their season-long winning streak to five games Thursday when the Eastern Conference-leading Montreal Canadiens come to town. Two days later, the Hurricanes host New Jersey. Playing every other day is not so bad when you’re streaking. “When you’re winning, it’s great because you want to keep the momentum,” Muller said.
Jiri Tlusty, Joe Corvo and Jussi Jokinen also scored for Carolina, which was playing for the first time since goalie Cam Ward went on injured reserve following a torn MCL that will require a recovery of six to eight weeks. The Hurricanes won their fourth straight and completed a three-game season sweep of the Sabres.
Staal picked up his 600th NHL point with the first of his two assists on the night on Tlusty's goal in the first period.
Justin Peters, recalled from Charlotte of the AHL, had 37 saves in his first start of the season for the Hurricanes.
Cody Hodgson scored twice and T.J. Brennan had a goal for the Sabres. Ryan Miller had 24 saves.
The Hurricanes led 1-0 after one period, outshooting the Sabres 12-6. Tlusty beat Miller on glove side from the slot on Staal's centering pass just 91 seconds into the game. Semin also had an assist on the play, giving the trio a four-game scoring streak.
Corvo made it 2-0 with a power-play goal from the left point at 12:17 of the second.
Peters' best save came with 1:17 left in the second, when he stopped Thomas Vanek's shot in the crease with the barrel of his stick. Vanek was back in the Buffalo lineup after missing two games with a lower-body injury.
The Sabres made it 2-1 on a rush 25 seconds into the third, with Hodgson picking up the change from Vanek's blast from the high slot.
But Jokinen took just 50 seconds to restore the two-goal lead, scoring on Staal's feed into the low slot with Semin again on the secondary assist.
Brennan scored a power-play goal from the right point on Jason Pominville's assist with 5:27 remaining, just 3 seconds after Jay Harrison had returned to the ice to end a 5-on-3.
But Semin scored from Staal with 3:47 left to get Carolina the 4-2 lead.
Hodgson scored short-handed goal with 34 seconds to go.
Buffalo right wing Patrick Kaleta was serving the first of his five-game suspension for his hit on New York Rangers center Brad Richards on Sunday.
NOTES: It was Buffalo's first-ever visit to Carolina without Lindy Ruff as head coach. ... D Joni Pitkanen (lower body) missed his ninth straight game for Carolina while C Tim Brent (lower body) missed his eighth straight, and RW Chad LaRose (concussion) his second straight. ... Carolina was playing the opener of a three-game homestand. ... The Sabres were playing the second of a four-game road swing.