It was October of 2007 the last time the Carolina Hurricanes beat the Buffalo Sabres in regulation at the RBC Center. That eight-game streak went by the wayside Friday night in front of a crowd of 16,095, as the Canes finally earned a win over their rivals from western New York, beating the Sabres 4-2.
The line changes put into place at practice over the last week by coach Kirk Muller seemed to energize the Canes, as the new top line of Jussi Jokinen, Eric Staal and Tuoomo Ruutu combined for five points, including Staal's second two-point night in just over a week. Justin Faulk and Chad LaRose also scored for the Canes, with Brandon Sutter adding a late empty-net goal to seal the game for the home team.
The first period was a wild, up-and-down affair that featured 27 combined shots on goal and forced Cam Ward and Ryan Miller to be on top of their game. Ward came up big a couple of times, but his defense was the story, breaking up a couple of Buffalo odd-man advantages perfectly to deny good scoring opportunities.
At the other end, Drayson Bowman nearly made it 1-0 with about three minutes left in the period, but the pass from Brandon Sutter was about six inches too far off Bowman's stick and he couldn't tap it home.
The Canes didn't waste any time striking paydirt in the second period, though. Seven seconds after Sabres defenseman Mike Weber took a seat for high-sticking Brett Sutter, Justin Faulk took a wrist shot from the left point that made it through a bunch of traffic in front of the net and past Miller at 2:39 to put the Canes on the board first.
Twenty-one seconds later, though, the game was right back to a stalemate as Thomas Vanek deflected a rebound home off a Jason Pominville bad-angle shot and past Ward for his team-leading 19th goal of the season at 3:00.
Determined to not blow another lead the way they did against the Islanders on Tuesday, the Canes came out and set the tone early in the third period thanks to Eric Staal's tenth goal of the season. Staal was right on the spot when a loose puck came free behind the Buffalo net, and he banked the puck off Miller and into the net at 1:11 to give the Canes their second lead of the night.
Jamie McBain then gave the Sabres some life with an own goal at 6:12, trying a dangerous cross-crease pass in front of Ward that somehow got through the goaltender's legs and tied the game on what was scored as Pominville's 14th of the season.
McBain's gaffe was soon forgotten though, as just under two minutes later Chad LaRose put the Canes up for good, with his eleventh goal of the season unassisted at 8:10. Brandon Sutter didn't earn an assist, but he was an integral part of the goal, hustling up ice to create a 2-on-1 and forcing Sabres defenseman Robyn Regehr to play LaRose less aggressively than he otherwise would have.
Muller certainly thought Sutter's line deserved every bit of that goal. "They really showed great leadership. I was really happy with a lot of the guys' games tonight, but I thought that line led by example."
Sutter iced the game at 18:29 with an empty-netter, his tenth of the season, hitting the vacated cage while being corkscrewed to the ice by a Sabres defenseman.
First period: No scoring. Penalties: none. Shots: CAR 15, BUF 12.
Second period: 1. CAR, Faulk 3 (Jokinen, Staal) (pp) 2:39; 2. BUF, Vanek 19 (Pominville, Hecht) 3:00. Penalties: Weber, BUF (high-sticking), 2:32; Allen, CAR (interference), 6:55; Myers, BUF (interference), 15:22. Shots: BUF 9 (21), CAR 8 (23).
Third period: 3. CAR, Staal 10 (Ruutu, Gleason) 1:11; 4. BUF, Pominville 14 (unassisted) 6:12; 5. CAR, LaRose 11 (unassisted) 8:10; 6. CAR, Sutter 10 (Staal) (pp) (en) 18:29. Penalties: Jokinen, CAR (roughing), 7:50; Gerbe, BUF (holding) 7:50; Boyes, BUF (tripping) 11:37; Faulk, CAR (cross checking) 16:19; Adam, BUF (high-sticking) 17:55. Shots: CAR 12 (35), BUF 12 (33).
Power plays: CAR 2-4 (50%), BUF 0-2 (0%). Referees: Sutherland, Auger. Linesmen: Champoux, Pancich. T: 2:25. A: 16,095.
- Of Carolina's 14 wins this season, ten have come when the Canes have scored the first goal. They are 10-6-3 when scoring first.
- The Hurricanes' power play, after being left for dead earlier in the season, has improved to 14.4% after a 2-for-4 performance tonight. The Canes are 5-12 (41.7%) on the power play in their last five games.
- Sutter and Staal each scored their tenth goals of the season, giving the Canes five players in double-digit goals (Ruutu 14, Skinner 12, LaRose 11).
- Click for postgame audio from Eric Staal, Chad LaRose and Kirk Muller.