McCormick scored the go-ahead goal, got into a fight and drew a key penalty to help the Sabres edge the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2. It was a big win for the Sabres, who were coming off a 5-2 loss to Philadelphia on Tuesday and are behind the ninth-place Hurricanes as both teams chase a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.
McCormick was happy to whatever was needed to win.
"It's not something you say before a game that you want to go out and fight. You just kind of go with it," he said. "First and foremost, you want to help the team any way you can. If it's a goal, assist or a fight, it's something you've got to be able to bring."
Goalie Ryan Miller was only disappointed that McCormick failed to get an assist, which would have given him a Gordie Howe hat-trick.
"It would've been nice to see that," Miller said. "Whether he's hitting or making a play, or getting the puck to the net, and lately he's been scoring, it's great to see."
Drew Stafford and Nathan Gerbe also scored to help Buffalo improve to 5-1-1 in its past seven. Thomas Vanek had a pair of assists and Miller made 27 saves to cool off the 'Canes, who had scored 15 goals in their last three games.
The 10th-place Sabres now have 43 points, five behind the Hurricanes and eight in back of Atlanta, which owns the last playoff berth.
The 'Canes were upset at missing a chance to close the gap on the Thrashers.
"It was one of those nights where we didn't have enough in the tank to create enough offense and get the job done," captain Eric Staal said. "A couple of mistakes and we weren't able to get it done."
McCormick proved to be the difference in a game the Sabres never trailed.
He revved up the crowd midway though the first period when he got into a fight with Troy Bodie. Then, after Gerbe and Ruutu traded goals, McCormick put the Sabres ahead for good 11:49 into the second period when he went to the front of the net to screen goalie Cam Ward, who had difficulty handling Jordan Leopold's shot from the left point. McCormick flipped the rebound just inside the right post for a 2-1 lead.
The goal was McCormick's second in as many games. He has a career-best 13 points.
McCormick's third big play came 2:49 into the third period when he was cross-checked at the side of the Carolina net by defenseman Joni Pitkanen. The Sabres capitalized 37 seconds later when Vanek set up Stafford in the slot for a snap shot that beat Ward over the right shoulder for a 3-1 lead.
Coach Lindy Ruff was so impressed that he had enough confidence in McCormick to have him play the final 32 seconds to help preserve the one-goal lead after Skinner scored.
"He's done everything we've asked and probably more," Ruff said. "When it comes to putting goals on the board and getting into the fight, it gave us energy at the time. He goes out and he goes after it."
Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice hopes the loss is just an off-night for his team, which is 10-4-3 in its past 17.
"We've been on a real good streak. We've played some good hockey," Maurice said. "It was a road game. We're happy to leave it here."
Material from wire services was used in this report
|Nathan Gerbe (2) ASST: Thomas Vanek (16), Paul Gaustad (10)|
1 - 0 BUF
|PPG - Tuomo Ruutu (12) ASST: Eric Staal (22), Joe Corvo (13)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Cody McCormick (6) ASST: Jordan Leopold (15), Steve Montador (10)|
2 - 1 BUF
|PPG - Drew Stafford (15) ASST: Thomas Vanek (17), Tim Connolly (12)|
3 - 1 BUF
|Jeff Skinner (15) ASST: Jamie McBain (14), Jussi Jokinen (22)|
3 - 2 BUF
|Cody McCormick Fighting (maj) against Troy Bodie|
|Troy Bodie Fighting (maj) against Cody McCormick|
|Paul Gaustad Tripping against Jay Harrison|
|Tyler Myers Interference on goalkeeper against Cam Ward|
|Tyler Ennis Tripping against Jay Harrison|
|Troy Bodie Hi-sticking against Tim Connolly|
|Joni Pitkanen Cross checking against Cody McCormick|