Don't look now, but the Carolina Hurricanes are on a roll -- and they're getting the kind of breaks that hot teams get.
Sergei Samsonov scored 1:47 into overtime and the Hurricanes sent the slumping Buffalo Sabres to their sixth straight loss, 4-3 on Thursday night. The winning goal came seconds after defenseman Steve Montador slipped while trying to play the puck near goalie Ryan Miller. Brandon Sutter picked it up near the end line and backhanded a pass to a cutting Samsonov, who snapped a shot past Miller.
"When we were struggling, it seemed like plays like that would end up in our net," Samsonov said. "It's nice for things to go our way."
It's the type of break the Hurricanes weren't getting during the first half of the season, when they plummeted to the bottom of the overall standings. They're now on their second four-game winning streak, have eight wins in 10 games and have won five in a row at home.
"The tables have really turned," said Sutter, who finished with a goal and two assists. and Stephane Yelle and Ray Whitney also scored for Carolina, which rallied from an early 2-0 deficit and gave coach Paul Maurice his 400th career victory by continuing its sharpest stretch of the season.
Things have turned the other way for the Sabres, who were running away with the Northeast Division a couple of weeks ago and now find themselves a point behind Ottawa, which improved to 13-1-0 in its last 14 games by beating Washington 6-5.
"I guess that's the way it goes when you're not going good and nothing really goes your way," Miller said. "It's not clicking right now."
Derek Roy scored two goals and Jochen Hecht added one for Buffalo, which has lost six straight for the first time since an 0-5-5 stretch in 2007-08. The Sabres host Western Conference-leading San Jose on Saturday night in their final game before the Olympic break.
"We're not going to coast into the playoffs," Miller said. "If we keep up this pace, we're not even going to make the playoffs. This is getting ridiculous."
Yelle gave Carolina a 3-2 lead with 10:05 left in the second when he skated down the right side and whipped a shot past Miller's shoulder and into the upper-left corner of the net for his second goal since Nov. 27. Roy tied it with 7:07 left in the third by beating Manny Legace with a backhander.
Miller, the probable starter for the United States in the Olympics, made 31 saves. Legace, filling in for injured starter Cam Ward, stopped 29 shots and improved his career record against Buffalo to 5-0 by beating the Sabres for the second time in a week.
The Hurricanes are still 10 points out of the last playoff spot, but they're not writing themselves off yet.
"It's a long season, and you can never count yourself out until you are mathematically counted out," Legace said. "We struggled through Christmas, but I really do think it was just a jelling period. Now the guys are starting to come together, and we're playing like a team, every single night, for the past month and a half, two months. That's the way we can play."
Carolina used a suddenly productive power play to erase an early 2-0 deficit, scoring twice with the man advantage in a 3 1/2-minute span against the NHL's best penalty-killing unit.
Sutter got the Hurricanes on the board by beating Miller with a wrist shot at 16:29, and Whitney took a pretty feed from Jussi Jokinen and chipped the puck over the goalie's shoulder with 1.3 seconds left before intermission.
"I think everybody was more going into a shell than sitting there shocked," he said. "We just took it as another negative happening and, 'Woe is me.' That's not the attitude we need right now."
"We're a good penalty-killing team, and we didn't do the things that made us a good penalty-killing team," Miller said.
The late goals at came after the Sabres jumped on Carolina early. Roy put his team's first shot into the net at 2:13 and Hecht stretched the lead to 2-0 at 14:01 with a fluky goal that appeared to click off Hurricanes forward Steven Goertzen and slipped through Legace's legs.
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report