RALEIGH, N.C. — The Carolina Hurricanes and Buffalo Sabres each had something to show for one the biggest games of the season to date for both clubs.
The Hurricanes won 3-2 on Jamie McBain’s goal 26 seconds into overtime Thursday night. The victory moved Carolina into seventh place in the Eastern Conference, three points clear of the ninth-place Sabres.
“The playoffs are now, really, when you look at the standings, and you look at the teams we’re playing against,” Carolina’s Erik Cole said. “Every point is valuable.”
Chad LaRose and Jiri Tlusty also scored for Carolina, 11-3-2 in its last 16 home games. The Hurricanes won consecutive games for the first time since the end of January.
Cam Ward made 27 saves.
“They get a point, too,” Ward said. “In the perfect world, you’d like a win in regulation, but the guys competed really hard. They’re a really good team.”
On the winning play, defenceman Joni Pitkanen rushed the puck over the Sabres’ blue-line and waited for the trailing McBain. McBain’s slapshot made it through traffic before sneaking through goalie Ryan Miller’s legs.
“It kind of had eyes,” McBain said. “Any shot’s a good shot in overtime. You never know what’s going to happen. I was just trying to get it to the net.”
All was not lost for the Sabres. Even though Buffalo lost, it earned a point for reaching overtime. And because the New York Rangers fell to Minnesota, Buffalo is only two points behind the eighth-place Rangers in the Eastern Conference with three games in hand.
“I guess this is not so bad, but we let it go,” Miller said.
Newly acquired Brad Boyes scored his second goal in two games for the Sabres, Steve Montador also had a goal and Miller made 21 saves.
Buffalo, which had won four in a row on the road, is in the midst of a seven-game trip.
After an uneventful first period, the Sabres got the sizable contingent of Buffalo fans on their feet early in the second when Montador slapped a shot past a screened Ward from just inside the blue line.
The Hurricanes countered quickly, with Tlusty finishing off a scramble in front of Miller. Brandon Sutter had hit the post seconds earlier.
The teams traded goals again later in the period.
Boyes, acquired from St. Louis at the trade deadline, gave the Sabres a brief 2-1 lead when he cleaned up a rebound. Buffalo defenceman Andrej Sekera had wristed a shot from the point that hit a couple of players in front, causing the puck to fall in front of Ward. Boyes was there to pick it up and jam it past Ward quickly.
The Hurricanes tied the score less than two minutes later. Miller went behind his net to corral a dump-in and sent the puck into a corner. Carolina’s Jeff Skinner intercepted it and centred the puck to LaRose, who was out in front. LaRose outwaited Miller, who tried to scramble back into the net, before shovelling the puck into the net.
“My fault on that one,” Miller said. “That second one is a tough play. My guys told me to play it, and I whiffed. I thought with (LaRose) being a righty, he was going to one-time it. He just held on to it. It would’ve worked to my favour had I just come back and gotten position.”
With the score still tied 2-2, Boyes had a breakaway early in the third but backhanded the puck into Ward’s glove. Buffalo’s Tyler Ennis then hit the post on a power play late in the third period.
“I thought we played great,” Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. “We had a couple of really good looks. When they don’t go in, you lose the game, but when you compete like that for 60 minutes, you’re going to win a lot of hockey games.”
NOTES: Carolina killed off three Buffalo power plays in the first period and five for the game. Ward has started 24 consecutive games for the Hurricanes. … Sekera had two assists for Buffalo.