BUFFALO, N.Y. – The Buffalo Sabres’ game plan on Saturday night was to shoot on net. Much to their delight, the strategy worked better than expected.
Ales Kotalik had two goals and Jaroslav Spacek had a goal and two assists as the Sabres scored four times in the third period of their 8-1 win over the struggling Carolina Hurricanes.
“You don’t expect games like that to happen,” said Buffalo defenceman Brian Campbell, who had two assists after being named captain for the month of December prior to the game. “It was a bonus, obviously, and guys deserved it. It’s something we can build off of.”
Tim Connolly, Derek Roy and Maxim Afinogenov had a goal and assist each, and Adam Mair and Thomas Vanek also scored for the Sabres, who have won six of their last seven. Ryan Miller made 20 saves for Buffalo, which won for the fourth time in five home games.
The Sabres scored twice in the opening four minutes, then followed that spurt with two more goals in a 56-second span late in the second period to break it open. It was the seventh straight game in which the Sabres were able to score the first goal.
Hurricanes defence Glen Wesley said the team let goalie John Grahame down.
“We hung him out to dry,” Wesley said. “He deserves better.”
Grahame made his second start in four games. He finished with 17 saves, including denying Drew Stafford’s penalty shot with 3:02 left in the second period.
Stafford was awarded the penalty shot after he was hauled down on a partial breakaway by defenceman Bret Hedican.
“They came out with a jump,” Grahame said. “They just kept coming at us and coming at us. Anytime you let eight goals in, you’re not doing something right.”
Ray Whitney scored for Carolina, which lost for the sixth time in the last nine games. Whitney’s goal came with just 1:55 left in regulation, spoiling Miller’s shutout bid.
The Hurricanes dominated play through the first part of the second period, but Miller was there to keep them at bay. His best save came midway through the period when he made a glove-hand stop on Matt Cullen’s wicked wrist shot from the slot, while the Hurricanes had the man advantage and trailed 2-0.
“We didn’t have a strong second period when they were trying to come back, but we were able to extend the lead by two goals at the same time,” Kotalik said. “In the third, the game just slipped away from them.”
Kotalik got things going for the Sabres with his sixth of the year just 92 seconds into the game when his wrist shot from the outer edge of the left circle eluded Grahame. Connolly scored less than three minutes later when he sent a slap shot from the high slot past Grahame, while Buffalo was on the power play.
The two goals came on Buffalo’s first five shots.
The Sabres pushed their lead to 3-0 on Mair’s third goal with 4½ minutes left in the second period. Off the draw in the left circle, centre Paul Gaustad nudged the puck past Carolina centre Rod Brind’Amour and sent a pass to Mair, who tapped the puck in.
Afinogenov’s fourth goal – a slap shot from the top of the left circle – just under a minute later gave the Sabres a 4-0 lead.
Roy had a short-handed goal just 76 seconds into the third after Connolly sent him in alone on Grahame. Vanek pushed the lead to 6-0 with his seventh on another breakaway at 6:48.
Kotalik added a power-play goal midway through the third, and Spacek finished the Buffalo scoring at 12:03.
Notes: – The Sabres rotate their captains each month. … Mair returned after missing 10 games because of an ankle injury. … Right wing Clarke MacArthur was sent to Rochester of the AHL. … Brind’Amour is eight games shy of playing in his 1,300th NHL game and six points shy of 1,100. … Carolina began a five-game road trip. … Buffalo begins a three-game, West Coast road trip on Wednesday in Anaheim.