RALEIGH, N.C. – Shootout goals are routine for Jussi Jokinen.
Just not as member of the Carolina Hurricanes. The shootout whiz changed that Thursday night, scoring his first since he joined Carolina in a trade with Tampa Bay in early February to give the Hurricanes a 2-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres.
“Since the lockout, points in the shootout can decide if a team makes the playoffs or not,” Jokinen said. “That’s something I’ve been good at all four seasons. I’ve spent a lot of time in the summers practising. When you get a chance you just try to be confident and forget everything else and the fans and do what you’ve done thousands of times before.”
With the victory, the Hurricanes moved into a tie with the Sabres for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
After the first two shots in the shootout were stopped, Jokinen skated in, made a quick move and beat Buffalo goalie Patrick Lalime to the blocker side, banking his shot in off the post.
It was Jokinen’s 21st career shootout goal in 39 attempts.
“I watched (Tuomo Ruutu) and (Lalime) was coming far out, so, if I stop, it’s tough on the goalie,” Jokinen said. “They have to think ‘What’s he going to do?’ I tried to freeze him out a little bit and I got a pretty good shot. It was a big two points for us.”
Jason Pominville had Buffalo’s best chance in the shootout, but his attempt hit the crossbar.
“In the shootout, they hit the post and it goes in, we hit a crossbar and it goes out,” Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. “That’s how close it ended up being.”
Carolina goalie Cam Ward rebounded after being benched after one period in Carolina’s 4-2 loss to Ottawa on Tuesday night, making 36 stops against the Sabres. The Hurricanes won for the fourth time in their last five games.
“I’m still fired up. I could go out there for another 60,” Ward said. “The adrenaline is pumping and it’s obviously a huge win for our hockey team to come back in the third period and respond after a disappointing outing in Ottawa.”
A game-time decision with the flu, Patrick Lalime had a strong game, making 31 saves for the Sabres. Buffalo has lost two in a row since star goalie Ryan Miller sprained his ankle Saturday night against the New York Rangers.
“Sometimes when you’re feeling your worst, you play your best,” Ruff said of Lalime. “It gets you in a little bit more of a relaxed state. That’s a heck of an effort for not practising yesterday and being run down. It was great to see.”
Patrick Kaleta scored Buffalo’s only goal.
Carolina’s Anton Babchuk tied it in the third period when he one-timed a slap shot from near the right faceoff circle past Lalime.
Buffalo’s goal came in the second period when Ward stopped Clarke MacArthur’s and Paul Gaustad’s first two attempts on a scramble in front. Kaleta swooped in and converted on the Sabres’ third chance.
The Sabres had plenty of other chances but couldn’t convert.
“The opportunities are there,” Pominville said. “That’s usually a good sign. But we’ve got to put them away if we want to win games. We all know how important this game was for us – this point was huge. We wanted to come out of here with two.”
Buffalo defenceman Jaroslav Spacek left the game because of an upper-body injury with 12:56 remaining in the third period.
“He got a little rattled – he got a shot to the head,” Ruff said. “But I think he’s going to be OK.”
Sergei Samsonov didn’t play for Carolina, missing his first game all season because of an upper-body injury.
Notes: Buffalo has taken at least 30 shots in its last eight games. … Carolina’s penalty kill has allowed just 10 power-play goals in its last 18 games. … The Hurricanes wore their alternate black uniforms. … The Sabres conclude their brief two-game road trip Saturday at the New York Islanders. … The Hurricanes were 0-for-6 on the power play and only have one power-play goal in their last 20 chances.