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Ward's makes 40 saves as 'Canes blank Sabres 1-0

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Cam Ward won't let the Carolina Hurricanes go down without a fight.

Ward stopped all 40 shots he faced, including 22 in the first period, as the Hurricanes won 1-0 at Buffalo on Tuesday night to move within two points of the Sabres in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

"We feel we have arguably the best goaltender in the world," coach Paul Maurice said. "For a one-goal hockey game, there was lots going on."

Brandon Sutter scored in the final minute of the first period, and Ward made the lead stand up as the Hurricanes snapped a four-game slide and handed Buffalo its fifth shutout loss this season.

The Sabres dropped to 7-3-2 in their past 12 games and fell two points behind the New York Rangers, who moved into seventh place after beating the Islanders 6-3 earlier in the evening.

Ward stopped 22 shots in the first period alone, including a left pad save to turn away a shot from Cody McCormick set up alone at the right post. He was just as sharp in the third period, getting his glove on Tyler Ennis' one-timer from the left circle with 14 minutes left.

"This isn't an easy building to play in," Ward said. "We knew they were going to come out firing the puck in the first period. To be able to weather the storm and come out of the period with a 1-0 lead really boosted our club."

The Sabres could only blame themselves for squandering a chance to open up ground in what's becoming a tightly packed race -- Carolina can tie the Sabres by beating Toronto at home on Wednesday.

"It comes down to putting your chances away," said Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, who stopped 32 shots. "All in all, it was a good hockey game, but not the side we wanted to be on."

Sutter's goal with 43 seconds left in the first period made the difference.

Derek Joslin started the play by getting a shot through a crowd from the blue line. Miller made the initial save, but couldn't control the rebound. Sutter dug out the puck, skated to his left and backhanded a shot into the open side.

"We knew we had to treat tonight like our game was going to change our season," Sutter said. "If things didn't go our way it would've been a different story."

Before that, it was all Ward. He made a glove save on Tim Connolly's snap shot during a 2-on-1 rush in the opening minute, then foiled Connolly again late in the period with a glove save when the Sabres center walked in alone after winning a faceoff.

"We came out and gave it everything we had in the first period," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "We got some Grade A opportunities and we didn't capitalize.

"If you get a team down, you get them out of their game. They played a pretty smart game once they got the lead.

The Hurricanes won despite continuing to get little offensive production -- especially from their power play. Carolina has gone seven straight games without scoring three goals in regulation, and the power play went 0-for-5, extending the unit's streak to 0-for--27 in seven games, and 2-for-54 in its past 14.

For one night, though, power-play problems were irrelevant.

"It doesn't matter at this time of year," Carolina captain Eric Staal said, referring to the lack of production. "It's about getting the win and the two points. So we'll take that."

Material from team media and wire services was used in this report

The Sabres outshot the Hurricanes 22-13 in the first period, including a 91-second stretch in which they got off seven consecutive shots, only to be turned aside by Ward. The goalie's best stop came nine minutes in when he kicked out his left pad to block a shot from Cody McCormick, who was set up at the right post by Steve Montador's feed through the middle.

To make matters worse for the Sabres, they wound up trailing 1-0 after Sutter scored with 43 seconds remaining in the frame. Derek Joslin started the play by getting a shot through a crowd from the blue line. Ryan Miller made the initial save, but couldn't control the rebound.

Sutter dug out the puck and skated to his left to backhand it into the open side.

The 22 shots by Buffalo are tied for third most in an opening period, and tied for 15th most in any period this season, according to STATS LLC.

The Hurricanes won despite continuing to get little offensive production - especially from their power play.

Carolina has now gone seven straight game without scoring three goals in regulation. And their power play finished 0 for 5 Tuesday night.

That extended the unit's streak to 0 for 27 over seven games, and 2 for 54 in its past 14.

Material from team media and wire services was used in this report

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