RALEIGH, N.C. – A defender falls down at the wrong time, and seconds later, the puck is in the net and the game is over. The Carolina Hurricanes finally are catching the breaks that for so long went the other way.
They’re also the types of miscues that have the Buffalo Sabres stuck in their worst slide in years.
Sergei Samsonov scored 1:47 into overtime and the Hurricanes sent the slumping Sabres to their sixth straight loss, 4-3 on Thursday night.
“When we were struggling, it seemed like plays like that would end up in our net,” Samsonov said. “It’s nice for things to go our way.”
Brandon Sutter had a goal and two assists, and Stephane Yelle and Ray Whitney also scored for Carolina, which rallied from an early 2-0 deficit and gave coach Paul Maurice his 400th career victory by continuing its sharpest stretch of the season.
The Hurricanes are on their second four-game winning streak, have eight wins in 10 games and claimed their fifth straight victory at home.
“The tables have really turned,” Sutter said.
The decisive sequence started when defenceman Steve Montador slipped while trying to play the puck near goalie Ryan Miller. Sutter snatched it near the end line and backhanded a pass to a cutting Samsonov, who snapped it past Miller.
“I guess that’s the way it goes when you’re not going good and nothing really goes your way,” Miller said. “It’s not clicking right now.”
Derek Roy scored two goals and Jochen Hecht added one for Buffalo, which was winless in six straight for the first time since an 0-5-5 stretch in 2007-08. The Sabres, who were overtaken by Ottawa for the Northeast Division lead, will host Western Conference-leading San Jose on Saturday night in their final game before the Olympic break.
“We’re not going to coast into the playoffs,” Miller said. “If we keep up this pace, we’re not even going to make the playoffs. This is getting ridiculous.”
Yelle gave Carolina a 3-2 lead with 10:05 left in the second, when he skated down the right side and whipped a shot past Miller’s shoulder and into the upper-left corner of the net for his second goal since Nov. 27. Roy tied it with 7:07 left in the third by beating Manny Legace with a backhander.
Miller, the probable starter for the United States in the Olympics, made 31 saves. Legace stopped 29 shots and improved his career record against Buffalo to 5-0 by beating the Sabres for the second time in a week.
“It’s a long season, and you can never count yourself out until you are mathematically counted out,” Legace said. “We struggled through Christmas, but I really do think it was just a jelling period. Now the guys are starting to come together, and we’re playing like a team, every single night, for the past month and a half, two months. That’s the way we can play.”
Carolina used a suddenly productive power play to erase an early 2-0 deficit, scoring twice with the man advantage in a 3½-minute span against the NHL’s best penalty kill.
Sutter got things started for the Hurricanes by beating Miller with a wrist shot, and Whitney took a pretty feed from Jussi Jokinen and chipped the puck over the Buffalo goalie’s shoulder with 1.3 seconds before the break.
“I think everybody was going into a shell than sitting there shocked,” Miller said. “We just took it as another negative happening and, ‘Woe is me.’ That’s not the attitude we need right now.”
That came after the Sabres jumped on Carolina early. Roy put his team’s first shot in the net and Hecht stretched the lead to 2-0 with a fluky goal that appeared to click off Hurricanes forward Steven Goertzen and through Legace’s legs.
NOTES: It was Sutter’s first career three-point night. … Jokinen extended his points streak to eight. … Roy has five goals in six games. … Ruutu reached 200th career points with an assist on Carolina’s first goal.