Canes outlast Sabres for second straight win

Carolina scores twice while shorthanded, but Jeff Skinner's late power-play goal is the difference.

calexander@newsobserver.comOctober 15, 2011 

— The Carolina Hurricanes did it the hard way Friday.

The Hurricanes took on the Buffalo Sabres in the Sabres' home opener at First Niagara Center and gutted out a 4-3 victory thanks to strong special teams play and stellar goaltending from Cam Ward, who finished with 39 saves.

Brandon Sutter and Tim Brent each had a shorthanded tally, Jeff Skinner scored on the power play and defenseman Jay Harrison also chipped in a goal as the Canes notched their second straight win and their first road victory of the season.

Skinner's goal with a minute and 24 seconds left in regulation was the difference, coming just after Drew Stafford's score tied the game 3-3.

Buffalo's Thomas Vanek was called for tripping with two minutes remaining and Skinner made the Sabres pay with his second goal of the season.

"It was an unbelievable pass by (Jussi) Jokinen," Skinner said of the winning goal. "I don't know how he pulled that one off. I was calling for it but I wasn't sure he was going to find me there."

The Sabres were well-rested and ready after returning from a pair of wins in the NHL Premiere Series in Europe. They faced a Hurricanes team coming off Wednesday's hard-fought 3-2 win over the Boston Bruins, the defending Stanley Cup champions.

Sutter scored an unassisted goal with 11.6 seconds left in the first period for a 2-2 tie. After chasing down a loose puck on the left wing, he swept in and flipped a rising shot past goalie Ryan Miller for his first goal of the season.

Brent's "shortie" at 6:59 of the second period pushed the Canes ahead 3-2 and had Sabres fans groaning. Brent scored on a two-and-one rush with Jiri Tlusty, who put the shot on net and allowed Brent to knock in the rebound.

Sutter came within an inch of scoring again shorthanded in the third, but his shot rang off the crossbar. Eric Staal also had a shorthanded breakaway that Miller was able to stop. The franchise record for "shorties" is three in a game, set in 2006 against Washington.

It was a milestone game for Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice, who coached his 900th career game for the franchise. Maurice became only the seventh coach in NHL history to do it with one franchise.

"It was nice to win that game and the kind of game it was," Maurice said. "The players gave me the puck afterward, and I appreciate that."

The Hurricanes played the final two periods without Zac Dalpe, who left with a lower-body injury. But everyone stepped in and got the job done for Carolina as the Sabres came up empty on all six power plays.

Harrison fired a shot from the left point just as a first-period power play expired. Miller was screened and unable to track the puck.

The game turned chippy after Brent's goal. The Canes' Tuomo Ruutu and the Sabres' Nathan Gerbe were called for slashing.

After a scrum in front of the Canes' net, Buffalo's Paul Gaustad dropped the gloves with defenseman Tim Gleason. Both received five-minute majors for fighting.

The Sabres had a power play late in the second and nearly tied the score. Ward blocked a shot with his chest, the puck falling just wide of the post.

Vanek and Derek Roy had the Buffalo goals in an even first period.

Vanek's goal came on a deflection, giving the Sabres a 1-0 lead. Roy's came on a two-on-one as Ward stopped Drew Stafford's shot but Roy was there to knock in the rebound.

"I like the way we responded, especially when we got scored against," Ward said. "We had ... an answer for those goals."

Alexander: 919-829-8945

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