RALEIGH — In a crucial battle for playoff position in the Eastern Conference, the Carolina Hurricanes bested the Buffalo Sabres in overtime, 3-2. Jamie McBain fired a slapshot past Ryan Miller in the 61st minute to seal the victory. Chad LaRose and Joni Pitkanen also scored for the hometown team.
“It kind of had eyes,” McBain said about his game-winner. “Any shot’s a good shot in overtime. You never know what’s going to happen. I was just trying to get it to the net.”
While the ‘Canes gained ground on the Sabres tonight, they did give their conference rival a point in the standings. While Carolina may have the advantage at the moment, Buffalo has two games in hand.
“They get a point, too,” Ward said. “In the perfect world, you’d like a win in regulation, but the guys competed really hard. They’re a really good team.”
Thanks to a loss by the Rangers, the Hurricanes have jumped up to seventh place in the East. Carolina leads New York by one point and Buffalo by three points.
“The playoffs are now,” said Erik Cole. “Every point is valuable.”
In an article posted earlier today, the Hurricane’s defensive issues were addressed, specifically their mediocre penalty kill and shots against average. In what the the players were calling the biggest game of the year, Carolina was able to overcome their past deficiencies tonight and play a strong defensive game.
The ‘Canes only allowed 29 shots to reach Ward tonight. This is impressive compared to their 33.7 season average, but even more impressive considering the fact that Carolina was shorthanded for 12 minutes of the game.
In the end, the ‘Canes strong penalty kill was what gave them a chance to win tonight. Led by goaltender Cam Ward, Carolina killed all six of Buffalo’s power plays. Quite the feat for a team with the 23rd best PK in the league.
Paul Maurice’s team was able to hinder Buffalo’s attack by preventing too many second chance opportunities. Defensemen such as Tim Gleason and newly acquired Bryan Allen did an exceptional job clearing the crease, back-checking with a purpose, and maintaining control of the puck.
Maurice liked what he saw from Allen, who played in only his second game as a Hurricane.
“You saw the real value of Bryan Allen on our penalty kill tonight,” he said. “He’s big and strong and blocks out and lets the goalie see the puck.”
Being such a pivotal game, a high level of intensity was expected. The Hurricanes showed up with a strong physical edge, compiling 27 hits throughout the contest. Buffalo only registered 18.
The ‘Canes have been stellar at home as of late, winning 11 of their last 15 games at the RBC Center. Luckily for them, 10 of their fial 17 contests will be played in Raleigh.
Carolina returns to action tomorrow night when they travel to Chicago to face Patrick Kane and the Blackhawks.