RALEIGH, NC – It was a potentially devastating moment for the Buffalo Sabres when Joakim Nordstrom scored for the Carolina Hurricanes to break a 1-1 tie early in the third period on Tuesday night. The Sabres were only seconds removed from squandering a four-minute power play and had quickly gone from being in a position to take the lead to trailing with six minutes to play.
But instead of allowing the moment to shake their confidence, the Sabres took it as a challenge.
"We showed great character and great fight even though we lost a bit of momentum," defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo said. "We were still real positive on the bench."
That confidence translated into two goals that came precisely one minute apart, first from Evander Kane and then from Johan Larsson, to clinch a 3-2 win for the Sabres at PNC Arena. It marked their fourth straight win over the Hurricanes, three of which have come this season.
Kane began the comeback with 3:49 remaining thanks to a perfect saucer pass through traffic from Ryan O'Reilly. Kane began the play with a takeaway along the right-wing wall. Sam Reinhart made a good pass behind the net to O'Reilly, who lifted the puck out in front for Kane to score into an open cage.
"He uses his stick and that blade for a reason," Kane said of O'Reilly. "He put his skill set to work and it was nice for him to find me in the slot there."
Larsson's goal was the product of forced turnover by Brian Gionta, who stripped the puck from Carolina's Jeff Skinner as he tried to exit his own zone and fed the puck to Larsson alone in the slot. Larsson's shot beat Carolina goaltender Cam Ward and, just like that, the tide had changed.
The goal was Larsson's seventh of the season, a new career high. Four of those goals have been game winners, which ties him with Jack Eichel for the team lead.
The Sabres had led early thanks to Carlo Colaiacovo's first goal of the season, which came in the first period. But Chris Terry tied the game for Carolina on the rush with 7:50 remaining in the second.
Coming off a particularly disappointing loss in Toronto on Saturday, the Sabres responded with the same no-quit attitude that's been their trademark throughout the season.
"I think it just says a lot about our team, the fight in our team," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "We've shown it all season long that we're willing to play the 60 minutes and fight until the end. Nine games left here, we're still fighting for our pride, fighting for our opportunity to win hockey games."
CHAD COMES UP BIG
The Sabres' comeback effort might not have been possible if it weren't for the stellar play early from Chad Johnson, who beat the Hurricanes for the third time this season. His best save of the night came against Jeff Skinner less than four minutes into the contest.
Johnson improved to 7-1-0 for his career against the Hurricanes with .929 save percentage and a 2.14 goal-against average.
CARLO NETS HIS FIRST AS A SABRE
Colaiacovo had already had one of his best scoring chances of the season in Toronto on Saturday when he caught the puck in the slot in the third period but wasn't able to get his shot past Maple Leafs goalie Garret Sparks.
As it turned out on Tuesday, he wouldn’t have to wait much longer to score his first goal as a Sabre. He took a routine shot from inside the blue line, but it deflected off the stick of Carolina's Brad Malone at the top of the left circle and into the upper corner of the net.
Colaiacovo simply shrugged and smiled at the outcome, a 1-0 lead 12:22 into the contest.
"It's been a little longer than I expected," Colaiacovo said. "I feel like I've been getting some good chances lately and it's just a matter of time if I could continue to get those. I just saw a play where [Mark Pysyk] got me the puck and I had more time than I usually would.
" … I decided to walk into it and luckily I got a good bounce off that stick."
1,500 FOR T-MAC
Tuesday marked the 1,500th game for head athletic trainer Tim Macre, who has been behind the bench for the Buffalo Sabres since the 2005-06 season after spending the previous nine years in the New York Rangers organization.
Fellow members of the organization paid tribute to the man they know as "T-Mac" for his milestone accomplishment:
NOTES AND NUMBERS
With his assist on Colaiacovo's goal, Marcus Foligno now has four points (2+2) in his last five games. Foligno has 22 points on the season (10+12), surpassing his previous career high of 20. Twelve of those points have come since the beginning of February.
Mark Pysyk has also set a new career high for points (8) and assists (7) by earning the primary helper on Colaiacovo's goal. Pysyk has played a career-high 46 games this season despite missing nearly two months with a lower-body injury.
When Skinner was assessed a 10-minute misconduct with 1:27 remaining in the second period, it marked the fourth straight game in which at least one 10-minute misconduct was called on either the Sabres or their opponent.
The Sabres have been involved in 11 such calls over that span, five of which they have been on the receiving end.
The Sabres return to action at home against the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday for their final afternoon game of the season. Coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. with Tops Sabres Gamenight on MSG-B and Bell TV. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550.