RALEIGH, N.C. - Jason Pominville scored twice and the Buffalo Sabres snapped Carolina's nine-game winning streak in decisive fashion, routing the Hurricanes 5-1 on Thursday night .
Ryan Miller stopped 26 shots and took a bid for his sixth shutout of the season into the final minute while helping the Sabres dominate the NHL's hottest team and win their second straight. They went up 4-0 midway through the second period after scoring three times in a 6:58 span.
Matt Ellis and Jochen Hecht also scored, Derek Roy converted a penalty shot, and Tim Connolly and Daniel Paille had two assists apiece for Buffalo.
The Sabres entered facing an uphill climb to their first playoff berth since 2007, needing to beat both Carolina and East-leading Boston while hoping Philadelphia would claim regulation victories in both of its season-ending games against the New York Rangers.
It didn't happen. The Rangers beat the Flyers 2-1 to lock up a playoff spot, leaving the Sabres on the outside.
They certainly did their part against Carolina, thoroughly outworking a Hurricanes team that had won nine straight to match the record set twice by the 2005-06 team that won the Stanley Cup. Buffalo snapped a three-game losing streak at the RBC Center, where Carolina had won a club-record 12 straight games to vault into contention for home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Eric Staal's 40th goal came with 27.1 seconds remaining and helped Carolina avoid its second shutout loss of the season. Cam Ward made his 28th straight start, but allowed four of the 13 shots he faced to get past him before he was replaced by Michael Leighton midway through the second.
Leighton, making his first appearance since Feb. 24, finished with 11 saves while allowing Roy's penalty shot in the third that made it 5-0.
The Hurricanes were coming off a record-setting 9-0 rout of the New York Islanders two nights earlier, but this time, the Sabres turned the tables on them with their second-period flurry.
Ellis made it 2-0 when he pulled in the puck near the right post and wrapped it around the other side with 16:45 left for his sixth goal and first since Feb. 17. Buffalo went up by three goals after Paille checked Dennis Seidenberg in the corner, took the puck and dished it to a hard-charging Hecht, who wristed it past Ward for his 12th and second in four games.
Pominville then pushed it to 4-0 and chased Ward by scoring off a draw with 9:47 left, giving him four goals in five games.
Earlier, Pominville capped a nifty sequence of passes with his first goal of the game 5 1/2 minutes in. Jaroslav Spacek found Connolly at the blue-line, and he skated toward Ward before dishing off to Pominville - who wristed the puck just under the crossbar.
Notes: Buffalo RW Maxim Afinogenov was a late scratch because of the flu. ... Two nights after peppering the Islanders with a club-record 57 shots, Carolina had 27 against the Sabres. ... The Hurricanes are 1-5 in games immediately following shutout victories this season.