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Recap: Faulk Scores Two as Canes Top Sabres

Canes improve to 5-1-0 in their last six games with 4-2 win

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes / CarolinaHurricanes.com

The Carolina Hurricanes will have a holly, jolly Christmas after defeating the Buffalo Sabres 4-2, their fifth win in their last sixth games.

Justin Faulk scored a pair of goals, including the game-winner, while Sebastian Aho and Jordan Staal also tallied for the Canes.

Here are five takeaways from the Canes' final game before the Christmas break.

One

A quick start - scoring 37 seconds into Thursday's match and 33 seconds into tonight's contest - has been the Canes' calling card in the last two games, as the team has tallied a goal in the game's opening minute in consecutive games for the first time in team history and the first time since the Whalers did so in Jan. 1990.

Tonight, it was Aho getting things started early, as he located a loose puck between the circles, spun, fired and scored his eighth goal of the season.

Video: BUF@CAR: Aho sends deflected wrister past Johnson

"It was a good start, another start where we were able to get a goal and create some offense early," Faulk said. "That's huge."

"A real good start," head coach Bill Peters said. "I thought we had real good energy."

Two

Speaking of Aho, here's a quick ditty on a sequence in the second period. Aho was wheeling around the offensive zone, and Kyle Okposo was giving chase to no avail, really. Aho lowered the shoulder to shed Okposo, who tried to come back at him a couple of times - again, to no avail. Bear in mind this was a battle between someone 5-foot-11 and 172 pounds and an opponent at 6-foot-0 and 220 pounds. Okposo was not pleased, at all.

Tweet from @NHLCanes: How many Sabres does it take to stop @SebastianAho? ��#CanesSocial pic.twitter.com/C2NGIR9vQU

"He's hockey strong, I tell you that. He's a competitive guy," Peters said of Aho. "He knows exactly what he's doing. I thought he was very good tonight. He was dynamic."

Three

Over his last three seasons, Faulk has proven to be a consistent offensive threat from the blue line with 15 then 16 and then 17 goals. So, it was a bit uncharacteristic for the Canes' co-captain to have just a goal to his name coming into tonight's game.

That was bound to change, of course, for a number of reasons. One was that Faulk's shooting percentage was just 1.1, a statistically low number that will inevitably climb and normalize.

"I wasn't really down on myself too much," Faulk said. "I knew I could still score goals and generate, I just had to capitalize."

"He's a guy who has a big shot and tries to put up goals. It's probably been pressing on him that he only had one up until tonight, but it wasn't for a lack of chances," Cam Ward said. "When he can get them through and on the net, they're difficult to stop.

Tonight, Faulk chipped in with consecutive goals, his first multi-goal game since March 27 and fifth of his career, to stretch the Canes' lead to 3-1 and then 4-1. He also recorded a season high seven shots on goal.

Video: BUF@CAR: Faulk scores on odd-man rush

Faulk's first goal of the game was critical, as it came just two minutes after the Sabres halved what was a 2-0 advantage for the Canes. Teuvo Teravainen sprung Faulk and Aho on a 2-on-1 rush. Faulk gave the puck to Aho entering the zone, and Aho dished it back to Faulk, who snapped a shot to the back of the net. Later in the second period, Faulk joined the rush, took the puck at the blue line and picked a corner with his dangerous wrist shot, the puck touching the twine and popping right back out.

Video: BUF@CAR: Faulk wires beautiful top-shelf wrister

"It's rewarding for him," Ward said. "It's great that everybody can get free queso."

Four

After making 28 saves in Nashville on Thursday, the Hurricanes turned back to Ward in net, marking the second time this season that he's made consecutive starts.

"I'm just enjoying it," Ward said. "You have a newfound appreciation for the game when you're not playing as much and trying to take advantage of the opportunities you're given."

Video: Faulk, Ward, Teravainen, and Peters Postgame

Ward earned another victory tonight with 20 saves, as he improved to 7-0-1 in his last nine games (though, as he points out, it should be 7-1-1 considering Nov. 24 against Toronto).

"He's been real good. Where he has an unreal ability to settle us down is his ability to play the puck. He makes good decisions when he plays it," Peters said. "He's been good and deserves to play."

Five

Coming off the 4-1 win in Nashville, the Hurricanes didn't want to adjust their lineup.

"We didn't want to change the lineup coming out of the Nashville game. It was a very hard-fought game and very competitive," Peters said. "I thought we were very competitive again tonight."

That included leaving Klas Dahlbeck in the lineup, paired with Faulk. He's been used sparingly this season - tonight was his eighth game played - but when he's been in, he's been good. Lately, his physicality has come to the forefront, as he's not afraid to clear out the area in and around the crease and mix it up after the whistle.

"He likes it. He's competitive. Big, strong guy," Peters said. "When we needed to be on the body, we were. We were team tough in and around our net and at their net."

"He's been playing hard," Faulk said of his defensive partner. "When you're kind of taking it to teams offensively and skating them a bit, they try to slow you down with physicality. He's not shying away from it at all, and he's been doing a good job of having guys backs out there and being physical himself."

Up Next

The National Hockey League will rest for three days from Dec. 24-26, and the Hurricanes will return to action at home against Montreal on the 27th.

"It was a big win for the group," Faulk said. "We are happy with our play as of late, and hopefully we can keep it going when we get back."

"We've got a great group of guys here, and it's fun coming to the rink and competing with one another. I've been real impressed with our last stretch of games and the way we've been playing, and hopefully we can continue that," Ward said. "The leaders lead. We still have a very young team, but you've got guys like Justin Williams who competes every shift and is a voice in this dressing room to make sure guys are on their toes. The same with Justin and Jordan. All those guys are stepping up. We want to climb up the standings."

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