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Aho, Necas shoot Canes past Sabres

The Carolina Hurricanes beat the Sabres 5-3 Friday night in PNC Arena, as a Sebastian Aho hat trick lifted Carolina past Buffalo.

Buffalo Sabres v Carolina Hurricanes Photo by Margaret DeBruhl/NHLI via Getty Images

Led by the fifth hat trick of Sebastian Aho’s NHL career, the Carolina Hurricanes beat the Buffalo Sabres 5-3 in PNC Arena Friday night.

Aho finished the game with three goals and four points, starting things off with two tallies in the first period and finishing the hat trick off with an empty netter in the third. Martin Necas had another exceptional night for Carolina, tallying a goal and two assists to mark his fifth multi-point game of the young season.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi, off a great feed from Necas, snapped his goalless drought to put the Hurricanes up 4-2 midway through the third period, as every single point Carolina had in the win over Buffalo came from a member of the top-six forwards.

Antti Raanta joined in on the Finnish fun (Teuvo Teravainen also had two points) between the pipes, stopping 22 of 25 shots faced while making some big saves early in the third period in a one-goal game. Despite the goals against, Craig Anderson actually had a really great night between the pipes for Buffalo, stopping 28 of 32 shots faced.

The Sabres opened up the scoring almost immediately, as an unfortunate bounce for Carolina made it 1-0 just 28 seconds into the contest. Jacob Bryson fired towards net, and a heavy rebound off Raanta bounced off of Andrei Svechnikov and back past the Carolina netminder.

Beyond just the fortunate goal, the Sabres absolutely dominated the opening few minutes of the game. Buffalo was clearly the team that didn’t play Thursday night, as the Sabres looked quicker and crisper from the jump.

The Canes got back to their game and tied things up at 1-1, as a strong forecheck led to the first goal for Aho. Seth Jarvis fired off a shot that probably should have been a pass, but got the puck back for the Canes as the Sabres failed to clear the zone. The puck went cleanly from Jarvis to Teuvo Teravainen to Aho, who blasted it home for the Hurricanes.

Buffalo got the goal back to make it 2-1 just a couple minutes later, as Victor Olofsson got an uncontested one-timer off an offensive-zone faceoff win that trickled through Raanta.

But the Hurricanes went to the power play shortly after and almost immediately converted with the extra man, as Martin Necas played a phenomenal backhanded pass from the boards to Aho, who rifled one past Anderson for his second of the night.

From there, the first period stayed wild. Aho missed a chance at a first-period hat trick with a wide-fired shot on a shorthanded breakaway, while Jesperi Kotkaniemi got into a fight and landed a heavy punch to the face of Rasmus Dahlin. The eventful first period came to an end evened up at 2-2.

The second period was a much calmer happening than the first, but it wasn’t without its fireworks as Aho and Necas connected for an absolutely brilliant goal to give Carolina a 3-2 lead after 40 minutes.

Aho gathered the puck and skated down the red line, spinning towards the net to completely take two Buffalo skaters out of the play. He delivered a perfect pass across the net to tee one up for Necas, who unloaded on the puck for his seventh goal of the young season.

I mean, come on now...

Other than that, the Canes played an all-around strong period. They killed two penalties off in the second half of the 20 minutes, as Raanta made some strong saves a handful of skaters had great defensive efforts to keep the puck out of the Carolina net.

The Canes doubled their lead midway through the third period, as Kotkaniemi got the monkey off his back and scored his first of the season to make it 4-2. Necas made an exceptional play — once again — feeding a backhanded pass to Kotkaniemi, who just had to touch it past Anderson into the net.

After missing wide on the breakaway in the first and being denied by a ridiculous save from Anderson in the second period, Aho finally secured his hat trick in the third with the net empty.

Dahlin added a consolation goal with literally 0.1 seconds left on the board, but it was far too little, far too late for Buffalo.

The Canes will be back in action at home Sunday evening against the Maple Leafs.

They Said It

Rod Brind’Amour

On if that was as complete of a game as they’ve played: I don’t know. I’ll have to look at it. It didn’t really feel that way. But the power play for sure moved it around and probably deserved to get a few more. That was encouraging. The penalty kill was fine. It was a tough game to play. I thought they had us on the ropes there early. We were clearly not ready to go at that pace, but I thought that we were able to regroup and play a pretty decent game.

On if this was the kind of game where you need your best players to be your best players after Thursday night: Definitely. We kind of got drug into the fight. At least we were able to not have a good period but because we had a couple of high-end plays, we were able to toss that period out and it didn’t kill us. [Aho] was great tonight.

On Aho maybe even taking another step forward so far this year: What I see is consistency with his play. It’s every night pretty much the same. He’s an elite player. That’s how they go.

Sebastian Aho

On him and Necas setting up each other: Yeah, he’s hot right now. He’s feeling it, for sure. Great play by him on the power play there. Obviously I kind of returned the favor.

On getting into the fight and feeling good: My body felt good. It’s a good team we played tonight. It wasn’t easy. Obviously I scored a goal there pretty early and got the confidence going.

On finally getting the hat trick: I’m not going to lie, it felt good to get the hat trick. I felt like I could of had a couple of other ones too, but [Anderson] made some unreal saves. Had some chances today and luckily I got a few in.

Martin Necas

On his line: Our line has been great and even though KK hadn’t been scoring before, he still played very, very well. He’s a big key in our line and it’s good for him to score here and we just have to keep playing the same way.

On shaking off the opening goal: It wasn’t the best start by our line. The first 10 minutes, they were the better team but since then, we took the game our way and it was a fun night at PNC and a good win.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi

On his goal: It feels pretty good. It’s not the nicest one I’ve had so far, but I’ll take it.

On the skirmish with Dahlin: He shot the puck into our net [after the whistle] and jumped after our youngest guy so I was not a big fan.

Five Stats

  • That was the seventh game of Aho’s career where he registered at least four points. The last one came against Minnesota in 2019 when he also recorded a hat trick as well as a career high five points.
  • This was also Necas’ seventh time registering at least three points in a game. His last time was opening night against Columbus.
  • This was the first game since he was traded, that Jeff Skinner did not register at least one point against the Carolina Hurricanes. He had 6 goals and 10 points in seven games coming into the matchup.
  • Every point registered tonight by a Hurricanes skater came courtesy of the top-six:
    Teravainen (2a) - Aho (3g, 1a) - Jarvis (2a)
    Svechnikov (2a) - Kotkaniemi (1g) - Necas (1g, 2a)
  • This was the longest goal drought to open a season for Kotkaniemi since his rookie season (2018-19) when it took him 12 games to register his first. He scored twice in that game to lead the Montreal Canadiens to a 6-4 over the Washington Capitals.