Analysis from Raleigh
→ Bolstered by two-goal efforts from both Jeff Skinner and Brock McGinn, the Carolina Hurricanes began the second half of their season with their third straight win at home, a season series sweep of the Buffalo Sabres in a 5-2 victory.
"We realize there's a lot of hockey left. We want to keep trying to build on the good things in our game," Skinner said of the Canes, who have improved to 13-1-1 at home in their last 15 games. "We've done a good job the past few weeks of doing that."
"When we play at a high level, all four lines finding a way to play with pace, I think that's when we're at our best," head coach Bill Peters said.
Video: Skinner, McGinn, Ward lead 'Canes past Sabres, 5-2
→ Skinner's pair of goals occurred just 55 seconds apart early in the second period, timely tallies that gave the Hurricanes a 2-1 advantage.
Just 1:48 into the period, Jordan Staal moved the puck up the ice through the neutral zone to Derek Ryan, who then dished over to Skinner. The Canes leading goal-scorer then buried his shot, his 300th career NHL point.
"We had some good momentum swings, for sure," Peters said. "Skinny got us going in the first, for sure. It was a good way to get his 300th [point], and then he followed it right up. I thought he was good. He was dangerous."
Skinner's line remained on the ice following the goal, and Justin Faulk hit Skinner with a stretch pass. Skinner found the net again for his 17th goal of the season.
"He took the game over, in my opinion. He was just that dominant. He has the capability of doing that," Cam Ward said of his teammate. "He's been one of, if not our best player all season long. To see him get a couple goals and achieve a milestone on his part too is pretty impressive."
→ McGinn's first goal of the game stretched the Hurricanes' lead to two goals less than seven minutes into the second period. Elias Lindholm created the play, protecting the puck along the boards and then fighting through bodies to get a shot on goal. McGinn was there to collect the rebound and deposit it on the backhand.
"We just spent a little more time in the offensive zone and started to execute," Skinner said. "We were a little sloppy in the first, but I thought we picked it up pretty well in the second."
McGinn essentially sealed the Canes' victory in the third period with his second tally of the game and fourth of the season. Staal was cruising beneath the goal line and fed McGinn in the slot for the one-timer, and he made no mistake, banging it home to give the Canes a 5-2 advantage.
Video: Hear from Skinner, McGinn, Ward, and Peters postgame
→ Ward played in his 600th career NHL game and made his 18th consecutive start in net tonight, as he stopped 36 of 38 shots and earned third-star honors.
"I'm very thankful and appreciative of playing 600 games in this league, not only in this league but with this organization," Ward said. "I take pride in that."
How about making it 19 straight starts on Saturday against New York?
"Yeah, if needed, I'm ready to rock and roll," Ward said. "Absolutely."
→ In each of the three games of this homestand, the Hurricanes have fallen behind 1-0 in the first period. And in each of the three games, they've scored multiple goals in the second period to either tie the score or grab a lead en route to winning the game.
"We have the ability to get [momentum] back now. I don't think we did before," Peters said. "It's probably mental toughness as much as anything else. We know there's going to be push-back. There's ways we can limit the swings."
Three goals in just over five minutes gave the Hurricanes a 3-1 lead in the second period, and they took a 3-2 advantage to the locker room after Brian Gionta's shorthanded tally brought the Sabres back within a goal.
The Hurricanes then pulled away in the third period. Victor Rask re-established the Canes' two-goal lead when he potted a rebound goal off a Noah Hanifin point shot that took a lively bounce off the end boards. McGinn's second goal of the game, scored less than four minutes later, made it a 5-2 game.
→ The Hurricanes will look to stay red-hot at PNC Arena as they host the New York Islanders in a back-to-back scenario on Saturday night to wrap up this four-game homestand.
"We'll take tonight's win and move on," Peters said. "We've got to get prepared, focused and ready to play the Islanders."
"It's another big game. We knew when we started this stretch we had a lot of games against divisional opponents. Another big one tomorrow," Skinner said. "We'll take some good things from our game today into tomorrow."