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Lindback makes 49 saves, Sabres top Hurricanes

by Joe Yerdon /

BUFFALO -- It may not go down as one of the prettiest games of the season, but the Buffalo Sabres did what they had to do to defeat the Carolina Hurricanes.

Anders Lindback made 49 saves to help the Sabres to a 4-3 win against the Hurricanes at First Niagara Center on Monday.

Tyler Ennis scored his 20th goal to make it 4-0 with 3:12 left in the second period. Ennis, alone by the left post, received a pass from Johan Larsson across the slot and put a wrist shot past Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward.

It's the third time Ennis has scored 20 or more goals in six NHL seasons.

"[It's] kind of one of those benchmarks you want to get to," Ennis said. "Even when things aren't going your way or things are frustrating, you always want to kind of play well individually and achieve some goals and continue to play with good habits."

Lindback and the Sabres hung on after the Ennis goal. The Hurricanes scored three goals in the final 21:54 but could not get the equalizer.

"We were pretty opportunistic in the first period," Sabres captain Brian Gionta said. "We took advantage of those opportunities. But overall, I thought the game was kind of back and forth, sloppy by both teams."

Larsson, Gionta, and Mikhail Grigorenko also scored for the Sabres (23-49-8), who ended a two-game losing streak and surpassed their 52-point total from last season. Ennis, Larsson, Gionta and Zach Bogosian each had two points.

"It's an emotionally tough game to play when you're out of the playoffs, but the players have to challenge themselves," Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. "You can't forget about the fact that you're fighting for a job next year and all those cliches, but the bottom line is you just want to make sure you're competing and playing an honest game."

The Hurricanes (29-39-11) have lost four of their past five games.

"I think we've got to learn from tonight. Tonight wasn't good enough," Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said. "Not a good enough effort on the road to win in the National Hockey League, and you can't give up four goals this time of year and expect to win."

Carolina cut the Buffalo lead in half with highlight-reel goals from Patrick Dwyer with 1:54 left in the second period and Alexander Semin at 2:31 of the third period.

Dwyer deked around Sabres forward Cody Hodgson and lifted a backhand over Lindback's blocker for his fifth goal. Semin's sixth goal came on a 2-on-1 with Jordan Staal against Sabres defenseman Tyson Strachan. Semin deked and slid the puck past Lindback as the Buffalo goalie tried to poke-check it away.

"It came around the boards, and I picked it up and looked up and [Nikita Zadorov] was steaming at me pretty good," Dwyer said. "I just tried to get around him, and then guys started closing in and I got around [Hodgson] and figured I'd throw it at the net. There was some daylight there, and it went in."

Eric Staal cut the Buffalo lead to 4-3 with 5:22 left in the third after a scramble in front of the Sabres net. He picked up a loose puck and put a wrist shot past Lindback for his 23rd goal after the Hurricanes pulled Ward for the extra attacker.

Lindback made five saves after Staal's goal to preserve the Sabres lead.

"We had 40 shots [after two periods], but at the same time I think [Lindback] was seeing a lot of them, so it's frustrating," Dwyer said. "But at the same time, we knew we had to get traffic and get in his face and make it a little harder. If you look at Staal's goal, that's exactly what happened. In the third we were able to make that adjustment, and [Lindback] had a little harder time finding it."

Grigorenko opened the scoring at 5:41 of the first period. He received a pass from Gionta and chopped at the puck as he was knocked off balance. The puck fluttered past Ward for his second goal of the season.

"Sometimes pucks just find the net," Nolan said. "Grigorenko's wasn't a bullet by any means, maybe a changeup if anything. That's what happens with offense, sometimes it's there and sometimes it's not. We found a way to hang on."

Gionta made it 2-0 when he stole the puck from Hurricanes defenseman Brett Bellemore in the neutral zone and skated in against Ward before he beat him with a wrist shot to the short side for his 12th goal.

"Turnovers hurt us for sure, obviously, and then there were some other 2-on-1s they didn't score on that could've extended that lead when it was 4-0 at one time," Peters said. "I didn't think we played with the proper sense of urgency or enough physical commitment in the offensive zone to be heavy on pucks, and in the defensive zone I didn't think we were physically involved either."

Larsson gave the Sabres a 3-0 lead 1:18 into the second period with his sixth goal. He put a rebound of an Ennis shot past Ward after the Hurricanes were unable to clear the puck out of the zone.

"I think guys are playing for jobs," Ennis said. "I can't speak on other teams, I can only speak for guys I play with, but it's a quality group of guys. We get along well, it's a great group, a hardworking group. They want to stick around, and I think Larsson's a great example, Lindback's a great example. Lindback's been playing incredible; it just kind of shows you what kind of guy you are when things aren't going your way and you're still competing and working as hard as you can."

Ward made 21 saves.

Sabres defenseman Andre Benoit left the game early in second period with an undisclosed injury and did not return. The Sabres announced before the game that defenseman Mike Weber will undergo surgery later this week for a lower-body injury and will miss the rest of the season. He had one goal and six assists in 64 games.

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