Lee Stempniak faked the forehand, then went backhand to score.
Sebastian Aho faked the backhand, then went forehand to score.
While the Carolina Hurricanes didn’t get a goal from the Teuvo Teravainen line Saturday during regulation or overtime, Stempniak and Aho both delivered in the shootout as the Canes topped the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 at PNC Arena.
That Canes coach Bill Peters picked those two — the veteran and the rookie — to lead off the shootout wasn’t surprising. With Teravainen at center, their line has molded into a scoring threat for the Canes in December.
Remember the “TSA Line” of Teravainen, center Jordan Staal and Aho earlier in the season? This might be “TSA Line 2.0,” with Teravainen, Stempniak and Aho.
In early November, Teravainen was asked if he was better suited on the wing or at center. He laughed and said, “I don’t know. I don’t know if anyone knows. So let’s find out.”
The Canes are finding out. After Staal suffered a concussion on Nov. 27, Teravainen was moved to the middle. He had a pair of goals in the Canes’ 6-5 shootout loss to the Anaheim Ducks, and a goal and assist Friday as the Canes were beaten 4-3 in a shootout by the Washington Capitals.
“I’ve felt good and I think it’s getting easier and easier every game,” Teravainen said. “I like playing there. I get a lot of pucks in the middle and I can pass to my wingers, so it’s been good so far. Hopefully we will keep going.”
There have been some rough patches. In the Dec. 1 game at Boston, Teravainen inadvertently kicked the puck past goalie Cam Ward and into his own net during a scrum, allowing the Bruins to tie the score 1-1 late in regulation and win a shootout. Ward, in his next start, shut out Tampa Bay.
“For two games I was the only guy to score on him,” Teravainen said. “But things happen. The game is quick. Sometimes you’re lucky and sometimes not on those little bounces, but you just need to work hard and hopefully you get the good bounce.”
Aho, a smooth skater and crafty player gaining confidence with each game, has two goals and three assists in the past six games. Stempniak, after a long goal drought, also has two goals and three assists in the past six.
Teravainen and Aho, the two Finns, have good feel for each other’s game. As Teravainen put it, “We think the game the same way.”
As for Stempniak, he said, “He brings experience and knows how to play. He’s always in the right spot and makes our game easier.”
Teravainen and Aho were in position to win Saturday’s game in overtime. Teravainen made a quick move down the slot for a shot that Sabres goalie Anders Nilsson stopped with 46 seconds left, and Aho just missed with a backhanded slap off the rebound.
But Stempniak, then Aho took care of things in the shootout as the Canes elected to shoot first. Ward made two strong stops, against Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel, and that was that.
“There’s some strategy as to whether you shoot first or second and we’ve tried everything, it seems like,” Stempniak said.
A goal by the Sabres’ Evander Kane late in regulation could have been deflating for the Canes (13-11-7), who host the Detroit Red Wings on Monday. For much of the game, it appeared Joakim Nordstrom’s first-period goal for the Canes might be the difference.
But the Canes picked up the two points. While two points out of eighth place in the Eastern Conference after Saturday’s games, they were eight points out of playoff position because of the loaded Metro Division.
“Our division is tough,” Stempniak said. “Teams keep winning. We need to keep getting points and climb up.”
DETROIT RED WINGS at HURRICANES
When: 7 p.m. Monday
Where: PNC Arena, Raleigh.