The Carolina Hurricanes pushed their division lead to six points Tuesday with a 4-3 win over Buffalo, completing the three-game season sweep of the Sabres. Eric Staal and Alexander Semin each had three points, and Justin Peters made 37 stops to lead the Canes. Here’s a closer look at Tuesday's victory.
1. Carolina imposed its will on the Sabres until there was 4:23 left in the second period and Ryan Miller absolutely robbed Semin on a 2-on-0 shorthanded chance with Eric Staal. The Hurricanes didn't have another shot on goal the rest of the period and had just four in the third. Meanwhile, Buffalo had 29 shots in the the final 23 minutes and had the Canes on their heels trying to survive. It was a good lesson for Carolina: every team in the NHL is capable of dominating if properly motivated (in this case, it was Miller’s stop that got Buffalo going), and easing off the gas pedal just because you're winning and doubling up your opponent in shots can easily come back to bite you. (For what it's worth, Peters — in his first action of the season for Carolina — set the tone of the game early will several solid saves, plus added a few dazzling ones)
2. A good indicator of solid play? How about your forwards forcing turnovers? Carolina’s No. 1 line has been great at it. Eric Staal (25) and Semin (21) each rank in the top 10 in the league in takeaways, as do Chicago’s trio of Jonathan Toews (tops with 30), Marian Hossa (24) and Patrick Kane (23). Buffalo’s Thomas Vanek (27) and Jason Pominville (21) — two-thirds of one of the league's top offensive lines — also reside in the top 10. What do we learn? That top players forecheck and do it well. Staal and Semin combined for five takeaways (four by Staal) Tuesday, and while it's a subjective stat (like hits and blocked shots, takeaways are recorded by the home team, not the league) there's no denying how hard all of Carolina’s forwards are getting in on defensemen and wreaking havoc.
3. Don't be surprised if we hear more from defenseman T.J. Brennan in the future. Brennan got his first goal of the season on a blazing slap shot on the power play. The 2007 second-round pick has had an interesting path in hockey. He is New Jersey-born but played junior hockey in the QMJHL for three seasons, and has 51 goals in 225 career AHL games. That includes 14 in just 36 games this season (along with 21 assists), but Brennan did not have a point in seven NHL contests and was a healthy scratch the past five games for the Sabres. He made the most of his return to the lineup, showing off his lethal shot several times, most notably on his goal that made it 3-2 in the third. In 2007, International Scouting Services tabbed him the fourth-best offensive defenseman in the draft behind guys named Kevin Shattenkirk, Karl Alzner and Thomas Hickey. While his all-around game is still iffy, there's always a place in the NHL for a guy who can shoot as hard as Brennan.
Number To Know
0 — The number of times the Hurricanes have lost when leading after one or two periods this season. They are the only team in the NHL that is perfect after ending any period with a lead.
Alexander Semin — Semin didn't take a night off from dishing out assists — he had two — but the highlight of the night was his laser of a wrist shot in the third period that essentially put the game away right after Buffalo creeped within a goal. Tyler Ennis was stung by a Tim Gleason slap shot and Buffalo’s defense scrambled. Eric Staal collected the puck and found Semin at the top of the opposite circle, and the Russian forward ripped a shot over Miller’s right shoulder to give the Hurricanes their fourth goal of the night.
Justin Faulk — It was an off night for Faulk, who was on the ice for all three of Buffalo’s goals and at least partially at fault for two of them. Most notably was Cody Hodgson's late shorthanded goal in which the Buffalo forward danced through the Hurricanes — especially Faulk — to make the final minute of the game more interesting than it needed to be. The key for Faulk will be to bounce back — Faulk and Jay Harrison saw the Vanek-Pominville-Hodgson line for more than half the game, so having an off night against one of the NHL's top trios is not a cause for concern. Until Joni Pitkanen gets healthy and Carolina can reunite Gleason with Faulk — it seems the staff is most comfortable having Joe Corvo on the ice with Gleason as much as possible — it will be a little tougher for Faulk to dominate against the opposition with an able-but-not-as-good-as-Gleason partner in Harrison.