BUFFALO, N.Y. - Sebastian Aho scored his third goal in as many games in the final five minutes of tonight's contest to lift the Carolina Hurricanes over the Buffalo Sabres, 3-1.
Justin Williams tallied the Hurricanes' first goal, Joakim Nordstrom found the empty net in the final minute and Scott Darling made 24 saves in the victory.
Here are five takeaways from this Saturday night in Buffalo.
On Thursday night in Brooklyn, the Hurricanes entered the third period with a one-goal lead. That dissipated, and the Canes left empty-handed.
Tonight, the Canes had another one-goal lead heading into the final 20 minutes. It disappeared, as well.
"You try to learn from those things, not say, 'I hope that doesn't happen again.' You need to make sure it doesn't happen again," Williams said. "We let them back into it because we refuse to push forward."
But, the Hurricanes did find a way to bear down and find the game-winning goal late.
"Somebody made a big play for us," Williams said. "We tried to back our way into a win, and that doesn't work," Williams said.
"You know they're going to come with a push," head coach Bill Peters said. "It was good. It was a good response by our guys. They came with a push and we answered."
That answer came from a 20-year-old forward playing in his 100th career NHL game.
Justin Falk misplayed the puck at his own blue line, and Aho burst in with speed. He corralled the puck, skated in alone, dangled and slid the puck past Chad Johnson to give the Canes the late lead.
Video: CAR@BUF: Aho beats Johnson on partial break
"It was a lucky bounce to get the breakaway," Aho said. "I just made my move, and I'm glad it went in."
After not scoring in his first 15 games, Aho now has three goals in his last three games.
"Good finish by Seabass," Peters said. "Two weeks ago that doesn't go in for him, and now it does."
But there's not much different in Aho's play - the puck is just going in now.
"He's made plays. He's one of our playmakers," Williams said. "It's good to see him going. I think the good thing was when he was going through that slump, he wasn't hanging his head or dropping his shoulders. He was still trying to be the guy, and that's big, especially from a young player."
"I'm playing the same way," Aho said. "You just get the first one and it gets easier."
"He's playing the exact same way," Peters said. "He's probably shooting it a little bit more, getting it off his stick quicker."
A scoreless tie in the second period was broken by the incredibly patient play of Williams.
Marcus Kruger smartly laid the puck off the boards into the neutral zone, where Williams exited the box with speed, gathered the puck and rushed down the ice with Derek Ryan on a 2-on-1 break. Williams waited and looked pass before drawing it back to his stick, putting on the brakes, backpedaling a smidge and burying a quick shot.
Video: CAR@BUF: Williams opens scoring with nifty wrister
"I almost blew that one, but I'm happy to get one to help the team," Williams said with a smile. "The pass wasn't there anymore. I knew I had a little bit of time because both units had been out there for a long time."
Darling bounced back from a rough outing in Brooklyn with a stellar showing tonight in Buffalo. The big man made 24 saves in net, including a highlight reel stop on Kyle Okposo in the first period and some solid stops in the third.
"When you don't have a good game, you want to just get back in the net, keep playing, show that it just happens sometimes but you're not going to make a habit of it," Darling said. "It's nice to get a big two points."
Darling didn't have much to do in the first period, at least until the last 120 seconds or so. The Canes held the Sabres without a shot on goal until the 17:24 mark of the period, a mostly harmless 40-foot wrister off the stick of Evander Kane - though Darling did say that "the shot counter was questionable."
The Sabres would get their first power play of the game shortly after that, and then just about everything happened for Darling. A Kane shot went wide of the net, but the puck sat on the netting, creating the optical illusion that it had gone in. The red light was turned on, the fans celebrated, the goal horn blared and we might as well have been a few bars into "Let Me Clear My Throat" before everyone - including a number of players - realized that play was still alive.
A battle in the near corner ensued before the puck was worked up to Ryan O'Reilly at the point. He dished a quick pass over to Jack Eichel, who one-touched to Okposo in the slot. Darling dove across the top of the crease to make one of his best stops of the season to preserve the scoreless game.
Video: CAR@BUF: Darling sprawls to stone Okposo
"I just shut my eyes and dove over there," Darling said. "I was happy it hit me."
Darling made two sharp saves on Kane in the third period and turned away a point-blank chance off the stick of Eichel, who was left all alone in the slot.
"Just a big man that takes up a lot of net," Williams said. "He was dynamic for us tonight. We don't win without him."
"Darls has been real good," Peters said. "He was big. He was real good when they came in the third."
Video: BUF@CAR: Darling stands tall to deny Eichel
So, what now? The Hurricanes are in the midst of a crucial stretch that includes three of four games against divisional opponents.
"The Metro is really, really jammed. We need to start getting ourselves on the other side of the line, pushing forward and seeing if we can get better," Williams said. "This is a good step, and now we need to get something positive rolling in our direction."
The Canes get another shot at the Islanders on Sunday evening.
"I like playing games, yeah," Williams said with a smile. "5:00 is a little earlier than our normal times, but I'm excited to try to get some revenge on them."
The Hurricanes head home now to host the New York Islanders in a 5 p.m. match-up on Sunday.
"I don't think we were overly thrilled with our game in Long Island," Peters said. "Now we have to get home, get a little bit of rest and come back and play the right way against that team. They've got a good team."