BUFFALO, N.Y. - Cam Ward made 36 saves for his third shutout in 10 starts, and Eric Staal had a goal and two assists in the Carolina Hurricanes' 3-0 victory over the flat-footed Buffalo Sabres on Sunday night.
Chad LaRose and Sergei Samsonov also scored to help the Hurricanes bounce back from a 5-1 home loss to Columbus on Saturday night. Ward has four shutouts overall this season and 10 in his NHL career.
Aside from winning a season-best third straight road game, the Hurricanes (28-24-5) gained ground in the Eastern Conference standings. With 61 points, the ninth-place Hurricanes moved within three points of Buffalo (29-22-6) and Florida, who hold down the final two playoff spots.
The Sabres were thoroughly outplayed in game they were outshot 34-21 through two periods and 47-36 overall. The score would've been a lopsided one if not for the play of backup goalie Patrick Lalime, who stopped 28 of 29 shots he faced over the final two periods after starter Ryan Miller was pulled after stopping 16 of 18 shots.
Lalime kept the score close by making several acrobatic saves, while also getting help from his goal posts during a 20-second span midway through the second period. Samsonov hit the left post while attempting to convert his own rebound. Staal then deflected Anton Babchuk's point shot, which glanced off Lalime's glove and then off the right post.
Lalime's best save came when Ray Whitney broke in alone and appeared to have the goalie fooled before Lalime stuck out his left arm to stop the puck at the goal-line.
There was no stopping Staal in the first period. He opened the scoring with a power-play goal 9:20 in, when he gloved down Jochen Hecht's weak clearing attempt and snapped a shot from the right circle that appeared to deflect in off someone in front.
Staal was unstoppable four minutes later in helping the Hurricanes go up 2-0 while a delayed penalty was called against Adam Mair. Skating through the middle, Staal avoided Ales Kotalik's weak stick check, then deked around Teppo Numminen to get a shot off.
Miller made the initial stop, but couldn't control the rebound, which LaRose stuffed into the open left side.
Ward was hardly tested through two periods, before coming up big in the third period. Ward foiled Drew Stafford's attempt from the slot in the opening minute and then made a solid glove save on Tim Connolly's snapshot from the right circle.
Notes: Hurricanes RW Justin Williams did not return after being struck in the arm by Babchuk's point shot late in the first period. The Hurricanes declined comment on the severity of the injury. ... Hurricanes D Tim Gleason did not play after sustaining what the team described as an upper-body injury on Saturday. ... Sabres C Paul Gaustad (shoulder) could be ready to return by Thursday, when Buffalo plays at Philadelphia, coach Lindy Ruff said. Gaustad missed his fifth game Sunday.