Scratch the Buffalo Sabres off the list of the NHL's undefeated teams.
Jeff Skinner's power-play goal with 1:24 left in regulation lifted the Carolina Hurricanes to a 4-3 victory on Friday night, spoiling the Sabres' home opener before a full house of 18,690 at the renamed First Niagara Center. The loss leaves just three teams -- Detroit, Philadelphia and Washington -- with unblemished records.
The Sabres, who beat Anaheim and Los Angeles in Europe last weekend as part of the Compuware NHL Premiere series, outshot Carolina 42-34 -- but they allowed the Hurricanes to score twice while shorthanded and gave the 'Canes a late power play when Thomas Vanek took a tripping penalty for hauling down Tim Gleason in the Carolina zone with exactly two minutes left in regulation.
Skinner, last season's Calder Trophy winner as the NHL's top rookie, continued his hot start by one-timing Jussi Jokinen's pass behind Ryan Miller from the right faceoff dot to break a 3-3 tie just 57 seconds after Drew Stafford had tied the game with a backhander over Cam Ward.
"He made a heck of a pass," Skinner said after the Hurricanes improved to 2-2-1 with their second straight victory.
Carolina's special teams have struggled in the early going. But the 'Canes outscored the Sabres 3-0 on special teams and capitalized on the late man advantage to win the game.
"When you get a power play like that, you've got to bear down, and we certainly did," Ward said. "They had a lot start in Europe, and we knew this was their home opener and they were going to bring their best. They wanted to play a gritty style, and I thought we matched that."
Sabres coach Lindy Ruff liked his team's energy and the plethora of offensive chances, but not the sloppy play that led to the first three Carolina goals.
"Some of it was careless. Some of it was lack of focus," he said of the glut of turnovers. "Some of it was just trying things we didn't need to try."
The Sabres jumped in front at 6:59 of the opening period when Vanek deflected Jordan Leopold's pass behind Cam Ward for his third goal in as many games. Jay Harrison beat Miller with a seeing-eye snap shot from 50 feet through traffic to tie the game at 8:20, just as a power-play expired, but Derek Roy pumped home a rebound at 10:01 to put Buffalo back in front.
It looked like the Sabres would finish the first period with the lead when Bryan Allen was called for interference with 1:01 remaining. Instead, the 'Canes tied it with 12 seconds left when Brandon Sutter scored the first of Carolina's two shorthanded goals, beating Miller on a breakaway after Vanek misplayed the puck at the right point.
"We created a great number of opportunities," Ruff said, "but we gave up some beauties, and all those beauties were given up because of plays we didn't need to make -- stickhandling at the blue line, a blind behind-the-back pass that turned into a goal. Those types of plays are hope."
After another Buffalo turnover, Tim Brent got the second one 6:58 into the second, finishing off a 2-on-1 break with Jiri Tlusty by putting in a rebound for his first goal with the Hurricanes.
"We got off to a good start, we were getting pucks to the net, we scored a couple of nice goals, but to give up one that goal late in the period was tough for us," Ruff said. "I think we tried stupid stuff. We had some good chances on the power play that we didn't put away, but we pushed too hard in some situations where we didn’t need to push."
Captain Jason Pominville said the Sabres may have been trying to do too much in front of the home fans.
"We kept it simple on the road, but coming home -- we moved the puck around pretty good, but you can't give up the chances we gave up and win the game," he said.
Stafford's goal gave the Sabres a chance to get at least one point before Skinner's power-play goal gave Carolina the win.
"I like the fact we battled back -- we scored the late goal," Ruff said. "When you fight that hard to get the point, you can't do what we did at the end and take a penalty and end up losing a point -- at least a point. Maybe with a little momentum, we wind up winning the game."
Instead, Skinner's goal made coach Paul Maurice a winner in his 900th game behind the Hurricanes' bench.
"It was nice to win, especially with the kind of game it was," he said. "They grabbed the puck for me after the game, and I appreciated that. There was a lot of excitement and action and banging. Special teams won us the game tonight."
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1 - 0 BUF
1 - 1 Tie
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