It was an eight round shootout the last time these two teams met resulting in a 4-3 Sabres victory. However, this time around was much different as the Hurricanes dominated faceoffs, possession, shots, as well as the final score. Tonight was the halfway point of the season with the Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Buffalo Sabers 5-2 at the PNC Arena.
The first period ended with a goose egg on both ends, but with multiple chances falling in Carolina's favor. Early on, Buffalo's goaltender Jonas Enroth managed a nice save on a Jeff Skinner shot that might have gone in if he had gotten a quicker release off the feed from Victor Rask.
Both teams have been noted for having issues scoring as that factor was prevalent with only three shots registered in the first five minutes. However, the Hurricanes increased their penalty kill percentile as Jiri Tlusty went off for tripping just three minutes in. Carolina ranks 5th in the league on the penalty kill and fought off all four penalties against the sabres putting them at a streak of 26 penalties killed.
With the little opportunity the Hurricanes gave the Sabres in the opening period, Tim Gleason showed that board play is still troublesome. Although Gleason lost a battle with Mikhal Gigornko, who fed a wide open Cody Hodgson in the slot, Cam Ward made an effortless save.
The three shots the Hurricanes managed before the half of the opening period were the best opportunities the game saw to that point. Elias Lindholm was able to work the puck in close from below the goal line with a nice wrist shot that bounced off Enroth's shoulder and was then taken out of the attacking zone.
Buffalo's big bodies were apparent as three solid hits came in one shift but the commercial break killed their momentum.
Working the puck in deep and possession was sustained by the Hurricanes early in the second period cutting off the first couple of fast breaks the Sabres had out of the gate.
The first goal of the game came from a returning Alex Semin feed onto the stick of Jeff Skinner. Semin spun around a Buffalo defender to protect a puck after a tape-to-tape pass from Ryan Murphy and found Skinner behind the defense at the back door to put it in a wide open net.
It didn't take long for the Sabres to answer back as Chris Stewart sent a backhand pass to a streaking Philip Varone at the blue line who made a move on John Michael-Liles while using him as a screen and slipped the puck past Cam Ward.
The Hurricanes continued to keep pressure on the Sabres getting consistent shots and recovering their rebounds to maintain possession.
Skinner rang the post on a 5-on-3 powerplay but their effort soon paid off as Tlusty netted a one-timer from former Saber Nathan Gerbe for his 11th goal of the season.
The five-on-three went to only a man advantage for 48 seconds and the 'Canes were able to convert again as Eric Staal contained the puck behind the net and what looked like an intended backhand pass for Elias Lindhom ended up in the back of the net after bouncing off Mike Weber's skate to sneak past Enroth to give Staal his 301st NHL goal and the 'Canes a 3-1 lead.
A faceoff win just under two minutes later in the offensive zone gives the Hurricanes possession and sure enough they convert another one off of a Ron Hainsey shot from the point and a Victor Rask redirection.
The Hurricanes headed into the third period outshooting the Sabers 27 to 11 leading 4-1.
Not two minutes into the final period, the red-hot Eric Staal headed to the locker room after a cross-check from Tyler Meyers behind the Sabres net and colliding head-to-head with Josh Gorges as a result. Although the Hurricanes were given a powerplay, their momentum took some damage possibly due to the juggling of lines, which had been consistent up to that point.
Philip Varone redirected a shot that was reviewed for possibly making contact with the stick at or above the crossbar seconds after John Michael-Liles left the penalty box. It was ruled a good goal and Varone tallied his second goal of the night and the season.
Eric Staal would return at 10:27 of the third just after Buffalo's second goal.
Riley Nash would answer back as he creates a net front presence and bangs home a rebound off of a Justin Faulk shot to regain a three goal lead.
The Hurricanes finished the game outshooting the Sabres 31-20.
"More mature and more efficient with the puck," Peters said about Murphy's game prior to the victory. He made some nice plays with anticipation while making good decisions with the puck. Other than his penalty for cross-checking in the third, he played a very solid game.
The line of Lindhom, Eric, and Jordan managed some nice opportunities and converted.
Patrick Dwyer, Jay McClement, and Brad Malone made up the fourth line and secured significant opportunities that weren't able to make it through, but remained consistent throughout the night. Early on McClement fed a one-timer to Dwyer but was handled by Enroth and may have gone off a Buffalo defenders stick.
While Semin makes good looks and looked good in his return, it might benefit him and the team to throw the puck at the net more because there have been several better shooting opportunities when he looked to pass.
Peters said before the game he expected the team to come out desperate and hungry, and that they did.
Don't forget about your free large Papa John's pizza, 'Canes fans.