The season after the Hurricanes eliminated the Sabres in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, Buffalo won all four games in the season series. When Carolina missed the playoffs by four points, those losses loomed large.
So the Hurricanes took a measure of satisfaction in their 6-2 win over the Sabres on Wednesday night at the RBC Center.
“I’m sure it’s on everybody’s mind,” Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said. “They had our number last year. It just shows you that every year is different and every game is different. I’m sure that we’ll have our hands full with Buffalo the next time we play them – they have a good hockey team.”
Eric Staal, Jeff Hamilton, Cory Stillman and Bret Hedican scored third-period goals to help the Hurricanes snap a 2-2 tie.
Rod Brind’Amour and Ray Whitney added goals for Carolina and Cam Ward made 19 saves to improve to 6-0 in the regular season for the Southeast Division-leading Hurricanes. Carolina has earned points in all but one of its games and has won three straight at home.
Buffalo has lost all three of its road games so far this season, scoring only six goals. Jason Pominville scored twice for the Sabres, who suffered two injuries in the defeat.
Defenceman Dmitri Kalinin left the game with a knee strain in the second period and did not return. Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said after the game that Kalinin will miss a “serious amount of time.”
Center Paul Gaustad was helped off the ice in the second period after Carolina’s Mike Commodore clipped him in the face with the follow through of his shot. He didn’t return, either.
Buffalo has lost three in a row.
“It almost feels like we were feeling sorry for ourselves,” Henrik Tallinder said. “I don’t know, maybe it has something to do with having a young team. That’s no excuse. We have to be better.”
Carolina held a commanding lead in shots through two periods, but goalie Ryan Miller kept the Sabres in the game, making 37 saves.
Staal scored the winning goal with 14:12 remaining by leaping over Miller to knock in a loose puck in the crease. It was Staal’s seventh goal of the season.
“We’ve developed a pretty good rivalry against this hockey club,” Staal said. “Our fans get involved – they love beating them. It was nice to come out in the third period and get a couple goals.”
That score started a big run.
After struggling on the power play in the first and second periods – the Hurricanes came into the game with the third-best power play in the NHL, but missed on its first five chances -Hamilton scored less than two minutes later on the power play with a blast from the slot.
Stillman then tipped in a Commodore slap shot right as a penalty against Buffalo’s Thomas Vanek expired a little over three minutes later to make it 5-2.
“They’re very aggressive, so they make you look bad sometimes because they’re so aggressive,” Brind’Amour said. “You’ve just got to find the open guy. I think that’s what happened near the end – we just found the open man.”
Hedican finished the scoring with 2:19 left.
Notes:Carolina was without injured forwards Erik Cole (foot), Andrew Ladd (ankle) and Scott Walker (torso). … Hurricanes RW Keith Aucoin took a high stick from Buffalo D Andrew Peters in the face in the third period and was bleeding. He left the game and didn’t return…. Buffalo is in the midst of a five-game, two-week road trip. … Brind’Amour extended his point streak to seven games.