BUFFALO, N.Y. – Tim Connolly received a text message from his father telling him that his grandparents wanted him to score Saturday night. The grandson happily obliged.
Connolly scored twice, and Ryan Miller made 36 saves in the Buffalo Sabres’ 3-1 win over Carolina that sent the reeling Hurricanes to their fifth straight loss.
Playing in only his 11th game of the season because of injuries, Connolly made his grandparents happy by posting his third NHL multi-goal game and first since April 2006.
“I got one for both of them,” he said.
When Connolly wasn’t scoring, Miller was stopping shots. He thwarted the Hurricanes at every turn in the third period when Carolina outshot the Sabres 19-5. The Hurricanes played the final 2:48 with goalie Cam Ward pulled – including a 35-second span in which they enjoyed a 6-on-4 skating advantage – but came up empty.
“Miller played great for us,” Connolly said. “Whenever he plays like that we’re probably going to win the hockey game.”
Carolina captain Rod Brind’Amour agreed.
“Their goalie made a couple of big saves at the end,” he said. “That’s the difference in the game.”
Miller was also helped in the second period when Hurricanes forward Scott Walker hit the left post after pulling the puck around the sprawled goalie on a deke.
The Sabres have won three straight at home after playing breaking even there through the first 20 games.
“We’re trying to find a game that works at home and on the road,” Miller said.
Teppo Numminen also scored for the Sabres, who won their second straight after a two-game losing streak.
Numminen, though, missed the entire third period after getting hit in the face by a shot in the second. Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said Numminen sustained a facial injury despite playing eight shifts following the play.
“He’s going to miss some time,” Ruff said. “We’ll find out how much (Sunday).”
Ray Whitney scored for the Hurricanes, who are on their longest regulation losing streak since dropping the final six games of the 2002-03 season.
“We have to keep playing hard and believing in ourselves,” Brind’Amour said. “We’re not pointing fingers. We’re all in it together.”
Buffalo has won five in a row at home over Carolina since March 2006, outscoring the Hurricanes 22-4 in the last four games.
Ward, making his 11th consecutive start, made 23 saves. He has surrendered 13 goals in three games.
“We’re not where we want to be,” Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice said. “We are struggling around both nets, ours and theirs. We’ll keep the faith and keep the fight.”
Whitney made it 3-1 with his 14th goal just 17 seconds into the third period, shovelling a loose puck between Miller’s pads from in front.
With the Sabres leading 2-0, Connolly increased the advantage with 3:04 left in the second period, scoring his second of the night and fourth of the season. After getting to a loose puck inside the Carolina blue-line, Connolly skated to the edge of the left circle in the slot before snapping a shot over Ward’s left shoulder.
Connolly opened the scoring eight minutes in, deflecting Toni Lydman’s shot from the middle of the blue-line.
Numminen increased Buffalo’s lead to 2-0 with his second of the season, scored with 3 1/2 minutes left in the first.
Notes: Buffalo LW Thomas Vanek had two assists. … The Sabres will begin a season-high, six-game trip Monday at Florida. They are in the midst of playing nine of 10 away from home. … The Hurricanes are in a stretch of playing seven of eight on the road. … Carolina C Eric Staal played in his 300th consecutive regular-season game. … Numminen is the only Buffalo defenceman with more than one goal this season. … The Hurricanes have allowed 23 goals during their skid, which followed a four-game winning streak.