RALEIGH — They can't do it, can they?
After all they've been through this season, the Carolina Hurricanes can't conceivably find a way to get back into playoff chase. There were just too many losses in October and November. There are too few games to be played and too many teams ahead of them.
But the Canes now have won four straight and eight of 10 after a 4-3 overtime victory Thursday over the Buffalo Sabres. They have 22 games to play, with a 10-point margin separating the Hurricanes and eighth place -- playoff position-- in the Eastern Conference.
"You never know," Canes center Brandon Sutter said. "We've got one more game before the (Olympic) break. If we can get that one ... You never know what can happen."
Sutter made something happen Thursday. He had a goal and two assists for his first career three-point game, and it was his pass that set up Sergei Samsonov for the overtime winner.
When Sabres defenseman Steve Montador fell trying to play the puck deep in the Buffalo zone, Sutter jumped on it. Samsonov was open in the slot, rifling a shot past goaltender Ryan Miller 1:47 of overtime.
Sutter and Ray Whitney scored power-play goals late in the first period Whitney with 1.3 seconds left and Stephane Yelle gave the Canes a 3-2 lead midway the second period with a hard wrister from the wing.
Yelle would have had the winner had the Sabres' Derek Roy not scored his second goal of the game with 7:07 left in the third period.
"We've got to take one game at a time," Samsonov said. "If you start looking at the standings and try and calculate what needs to be done to get in the playoffs, you're just going to drive yourself crazy."
But the Hurricanes (23-30-7) are playing their best hockey on that, everyone agrees. Even with goaltender Cam Ward out with a back injury, the Canes have won four straight.
Against the Sabres, now winless in six games, the Hurricanes trailed 2-0 in the first period after goals by Roy and Jochen Hecht. Hecht's goal in the first and Roy's tying score in the third were the result of pucks hitting Canes players and bouncing past goaltender Manny Legace.
In October, it would have led to a Carolina loss. One of many.
"But the tables have turned," Sutter said.
Sutter has been a big part of that turnaround, and his line Thursday helped turn the game around late in the first. Tuomo Ruutu got in a few hits, Patrick Dwyer forced a Buffalo penalty, the RBC Center crowd got louder, Sutter scored ... it was all a part of a nice comeback victory.
"That, for me, was the turning point," said Canes coach Paul Maurice, who earned his 400th career victory. "We weren't really skating the way we need to."
But Craig Rivet's cross-checking penalty late in the first soon was followed by a hooking call against the Sabres' Tim Connolly. Toni Lydman then high-sticked Ruutu with 12 seconds left in the first three Buffalo penalties in the last 4:38 of the period.
Sutter scored on the first power play. After the Sabres' Chris Butler blocked a shot by Samsonov, Sutter collected the puck in the slot and winged a shortside shot past Miller.
Whitney then had Canes fans standing and screaming, chipping a shot over Miller's goal.
"It was a nice win because everybody played well," Maurice said. "Our players feel good. They've earned their wins. They're excited."
The Canes face the New Jersey Devils on Saturday in their final game before the two-week break for the Winter Olympics. Should they win that one ...
"There's a lot of hockey left," Sutter said.
With the Hurricanes trailing 2-0 late in the first period, a big shift by Brandon Sutter's line led to a penalty against the Sabres' Craig Rivet, who cross-checked Patrick Dwyer. Sutter scored on the power play and the Canes' comeback had begun.
The NHL trade freeze for the Olympic break begins today at 3 p.m. Did any of the Canes play their last game for Carolina this season against the Sabres?
NUMBER TO KNOW
400. The number of career victories for Canes coach Paul Maurice.
1. Brandon Sutter, Carolina. Goal, two assists for young center.
2. Sergei Samsonov, Carolina. Scores overtime winner, adds assist.
3. Stephane Yelle, Carolina. Goal in second gave Canes first lead.
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