The Carolina Hurricanes are finally stringing together some wins as they try to move closer to their second Southeast Division title in three seasons.
They'll get another shot at posting their longest winning streak of the season when they host the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night.
The Hurricanes (36-29-5) beat Minnesota 3-2 on Thursday for their third three-game winning streak since Feb. 12. Before that, Carolina's only other three-game run came Oct. 9-13.
"We've got a good thing going, we've got a good feeling in this locker room, guys know where they sit in the lineup, guys know what they need to bring for us to win, and when that happens it results in wins," Carolina's Eric Staal told the Hurricanes' official Web site.
With the win, the Hurricanes extended their division lead to five points over Washington. Matt Cullen had a goal and an assist, and Erik Cole added the go-ahead goal on a deflection midway through the third period.
"This is one of those games you'll look back and mark it," Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette said. "We traveled, and they were sitting here waiting for us, guys had to step in and play different roles, and for us to play the way we did - I am proud of the way we played. It was an important game for the whole team to respond."
|Winning the Southeast Division appears to be the only sure shot way of making the playoffs for the Carolina Hurricanes. They hope to pad their division lead when they face the Buffalo Sabres on Satuday. (AP Photo/Don Heupel)
Cole's goal came on the power play, giving the Hurricanes a man-advantage goal in four straight games. Carolina's penalty kill, which has been ranked among the worst in the league all season, has also been strong, not allowing a goal on 14 chances over the last five games.
"It was nice that our power play was able to generate some shots, and that's made our power play successful, having that traffic in front and getting pucks back to the point and shooting it," Cole said.
To keep their winning streak alive, however, the Hurricanes will have to figure out the Sabres (32-27-9).
Buffalo has won six of seven against Carolina, with the lone defeat over that span coming on Oct. 24 at the RBC Center. The Sabres bounced back from that loss with an 8-1 home victory on Dec. 1 in the last meeting between the teams.
Buffalo has outscored Carolina 32-18 over the last seven regular-season meetings. Of course, that run started in April 2006 - shortly before Carolina defeated the Sabres in seven games in the Eastern Conference finals.
Buffalo is in ninth place in the East, three points behind Philadelphia for the conference's final playoff spot. The Sabres lost 3-1 to the Capitals on Wednesday, falling to 2-4-1 over their last seven.
Ales Kotalik scored for Buffalo, which allowed Washington to score each of its goals off turnovers.
"Mental mistakes have cost us goals," Sabres forward Derek Roy said. "We gave up four or five breakaways."
The Sabres could get some help Saturday, as Jochen Hecht hopes to be back on the ice. Hecht, who has not played since Feb. 21 because of a pulled leg muscle, has 17 goals and 20 assists.