The Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Buffalo Sabres Saturday night by a score of 4-3 in a heart stopping, over-time thriller. For the second game in a row the Canes came right out in the 1st period and dominated play, eventually taking a 2-0 lead. You just had to know that Buffalo was not going away easily though because this game was of major importance to them.
Ryan Bayda created the first goal with nothing but hard work. After digging the puck out of the corner for the 3rd time, he took it right to Ryan Miller. The puck bounced out to Keith Aucoin who was open in the slot area, and Albany's ex-captain buried the shot making it 1-0. Less than a minute later, Tim Gleason blasted a shot in from the blueline making it 2-0.
About 5 minutes into the 2nd period, Cam Ward seemed to mis-play a puck behind the net and Derek Roy was able to sneak the puck into the goal, giving Buffalo new life. The Canes answered quickly though as Sergei Samsonov put back a rebound off the stick of Eric Staal to make it 3-1. Later in the 2nd period, Ward came out of the net to stop a rush, but the puck got past him and Drew Stafford got his stick on it and re-directed it into the net.
In the third period, the Hurricanes could have gotten the score to 4-2 as Erik Cole set up Eric Staal with a wide open net, but Staal mis-hit his shot just a bit and Ryan Miller was able to dive across the crease and kept the puck from crossing the goal line with his glove. Later in the period Miller made another highlight reel save, this time diving and using his stick as Sergei Samsonov almost got one past him. The Buffalo goalie had an excellent game and did everything he could possibly do to keep his team in the game.
Ten minutes into the 3rd period, Toni Lydman scored a powerplay goal to tie the score and put an end to Carolina's perfect 6 game streak of not allowing a goal while killing a penalty. Try as they might, both teams did their best to net the game winner in regulation, but both goalies were equal to the task. Cam Ward made a couple of A-plus saves himself as he exploded from post to post to thwart at least one open Buffalo chance. I also thought that Ward was excellent with his rebound control tonight.
To Buffalo's credit, they were able to kill 2 penalties at the end of regulation, one at the 15 minute mark and the other with just 2 minutes to play. But the Sabres made the mistake of committing yet another penalty in over-time and they were unable to kill that one. Eric Staal wristed a shot near the post area, and Scott Walker was able to guide it past Miller for the game winner. Walker skated to the glass, jumped, and celebrated as the crowd went nuts.
Observations from Bubba's Bloggers Box......
I know that I have said this before, but it was another game with playoff pressure and atmosphere. If the Hurricanes do make it to the playoffs, they will certainly have the experience of playing in similar type games this year.
The game was a lot of fun to watch, like most have been recently. There was almost non-stop, up and down, end to end action. The Canes looked like they were running out of gas at times, but hung in there very well.
One can't say enough about the 3rd line of Keith Aucoin, Scott Walker, and Ryan Bayda. They seem to set the tone with their early work ethic.
Patrick Eaves led the team with 6 shots on goal and had some sweet moves. It's only a matter of time before he breaks through.
Huge kudos to Eric Staal who took either a stick or puck to the face, but refused to leave the bench or miss a shift. I think that he was stitched up between periods. The All-Star MVP ended up leading both teams with an amazing 29:43 of ice time.
The Canes dressed just 17 skaters. Wade Brookbank was a late scratch because of a leg problem, even though he did participate in warmups.
I'm sure the Sabres are upset about those penalties called late in the game and in OT, but they looked like penalties to me. Eric Staal was quoted afterwards as saying "You can't help but call them the way we are skating."
The win gives Carolina their first 4 game winning streak of the year. They also have a record of 10-1-1 in their last 12 home games and they are 11-3-1 in their last 15 games overall.
The Washington Capitals lost to Boston during the day, so the Hurricanes now lead the Division by 7 points. The Caps still have 2 games in hand, but they will use one of those games tomorrow afternoon in a contest against the Penguins.
The Hurricanes will be off until Wednesday night when they play the Blackhawks in the Windy City.