Eric Staal extended his career best point streak to 11 consecutive games and the Carolina Hurricanes came from behind to defeat the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night, 4-3. Staal scored a goal and picked up an assist to give him 10 goals and seven assists in his streak.
Carolina's Captain now has 42 points in his last 32 games since returning from an injury which kept him out of action for 10 games.
The Canes out-skated Buffalo early and jumped out to a 1-0 lead when Zach Boychuk set up Aaron Ward mid-way through the first period. Boychuk earned his second career NHL assist on the play and Ward scored his first goal of the season.
Andrej Sekera tied things up though for Buffalo with just 1:25 left in the period.
Things slowed down a bit in the scoreless second, but the third period was an exciting one.
Staal scored his 20th of the season just 34 seconds into the third. Ray Whitney and Jussi Jokinen picked up assists on the play.
Just 20 seconds later, Drew Stafford tied the score. Then two minutes after that, Stafford scored again on a fluke play when the puck flew up into the air and fell into the net when it landed behind an unsuspecting Manny Legace, falling into the goal when it hit his back.
The backup goalie played a pretty solid game for the Hurricanes, but did not see the puck on that play.
Unlike the two previous games in Alberta, Carolina fought back in this one. Matt Cullen fished a puck out of the corner and fed Sergei Samsonov, who was planted on the side of the net. Samsonov sent a perfect pass across the crease and a hard skating Tom Kostopoulos was able to tip it in to tie the score.
It was a sweet looking play and surely would have gotten a "now that's hockey baby!" from John Forslund.
The teams battled back and forth the rest of the period. The Canes had a couple of powerplay chances, but could not get anything going. Finally, Staal found linemate Jokinen streaking in at the blueline and the Finn blasted the shot past Miller, who probably thought he should have had it.
The Canes held on for the last three minutes or so, and picked up their seventh win on the road this season.
- Manny Legace had a scary pregame warmup when he was hit in the throat by a shot. "It probably would have taken a bullet between the eyes to keep me out," said an upbeat Legace, who has been in the crease for only 7 minutes since Dec. 23. "That scared me. It winded me a little bit, but once I caught my breath I knew my windpipe was fine and I was ready to go." The backup made 28 saves on 31 shots.
- Tom Kostopoulos had the game tying goal, his seventh marker of the season. He also led the team with three hits.
- Aaron Ward not only scored his first goal of the season, he had a team high three blocked shots.
Niclas Wallin was a healthy scratch. Jim Rutherford was quoted as saying the "pending" deal sending him to the San Jose was "dead", perhaps another victim of the "dreaded no trade clause". But one never knows about dead deals, sometimes they can be put on life support and revived. We will see.
The Canes traveled to New York immediately after the game and will close out their road trip Saturday night against the Islanders.