The Carolina Hurricanes played host to their Northeast Division rival Buffalo Sabres at the PNC Arena in Raleigh on Thursday night. Coming into the night the Hurricanes led the league shots on goal, however was last in goals scored. At the first intermission there was a feeling in the building that this odd stat might continue. When the first period buzzer sounded the Canes had out-shot the Sabres by one and had no points on the board. The only saving grace for the Hurricane faithful, and the players, was Buffalo hadn’t scored either. The Hurricanes have been outscored in the first period 6-0 after the first two games, so not trailing after 20 minutes is O.K. according to Carolina head coach Kirk Muller.
“It was a good first period,” said Muller. “A scoreless period is OK. It is about how we played and defended and played it the right way and played harder and competed harder. That is what I was happy about as a coach.”
It did not take long into the second for the Hurricanes to realize that the statistical oddity would soon be a distant memory. Forward Jeff Skinner scored on another backhand, his second in as many games. He lifted the shot over Buffalo goalie, Jhonas Enroth.
Skinner said on his backhand, “I just tried to get it in on net, but if it keeps working I will keep shooting on it.”
“Once that first goal it definitely eased up clinching the sticks,” Jordan Staal said.
It did not take long for the feeling to come back to the Hurricanes fingers. Three minutes after the first goal, a second was scored and this time it was short-handed. Jordan Staal stole the puck and found Justin Faulk who buried his first of the year and the Hurricanes first short-handed goal of the year in the back of the net. Buffalo was not, however, ready to pack up its stuff and go home. They rallied with goals from Cody Hodgson and captain, Jason Pominville to tie things up all still with 5 minutes left to play in the period. The teams traded possessions and with just over a minute left to play in the period Jeff Skinner skated behind the net and pushed a wraparound by a late sliding Enroth. The goal was Skinner’s second of the game and third of the season. The Hurricanes won the next face-off and Eric Staal cut through the Buffalo defense and beat Jhonas Enroth with a backhand. The goal sent the teams into the locker room with Carolina in the lead 4-2.
When asked about the Hurricanes’ response to the Buffalo goals, Eric Staal said, “Good teams do that. When opportunities go the other way and end up in your net, you need to regroup and refocus. We did that tonight.”
The dizzying second period ended with the 6 goals and 38 shots combined on the score sheet. The Hurricanes were up 4-2 and had out-shot the Sabres 21-17.
The third period is where each teams captains attempted to take over the game and pull two points for their team. Up first was Jason Pominville. Thomas Vanek made a no-look, behind the back past to a wide open Pominville on the wing and Carolina goalie Cam Ward didn’t stand a chance. The goal was Pominville’s second of the night and third of the season. The assist to Vanek was his 6th of the season and second on the night. Next to deposit his second goal of the night was Carolina captain Eric Staal. Coming just three minutes after the Sabres pulled to within one and with only 11 minutes left in the game Staal found the back of the net to widen the Hurricane lead back to two. With two minutes left, Sabres coach Lindy Ruff had no choice to pull Enroth for the extra shooter. Within seconds the plan back-fired. Zac Dalpe intercepted a Sabres pass and found Eric Staal wide open to score in the empty net. Eric Staal’s hat trick was the 13th of his career and sealed the Hurricanes first win of the season, a 6-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres.
The Hurricanes travel to Buffalo for a re-match on Friday. This will be the teams’ first of two home-and-home series.