The Carolina Hurricanes made the most of their only lead of the game against the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday.
Defenseman Andrej Sekera scored 9:50 into the third period to give Carolina a 4-3 lead. The Hurricanes held on to win 5-3 at First Niagara Center.
Cody Hodgson, Brian Flynn and Tyler Ennis scored for Buffalo with each goal putting the Sabres in front. Jhonas Enroth made 28 saves.
Alexander Semin tallied twice for the Hurricanes. Jeff Skinner also scored and Jiri Tlusty added an empty net goal with 0.8 seconds remaining in regulation. Anton Khudobin turned aside 26 shots.
Phil Varone, making his NHL debut, assisted on Flynn’s second-period goal for his first career point.
“It was a good feeling. It would’ve been a lot better in a win. It was fun, it was exciting,” Varone said. “I was glad to have my family here, but like I said, I wish it would’ve been in a winning cause.”
The Sabres are 0-3-2 in their past five games and have given up four our more goals in each of them.
“We’re finding ways to lose hockey games versus playing ways to win hockey games,” Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said.
Ennis put the Sabres ahead 3-2 just 49 seconds into the third period. After Drew Stafford rang a shot off the crossbar, Ennis, slapped a bouncing puck in from the left wing.
Ennis is now on a career-best six-game point streak with three goals and four assists in those games.
Carolina came back to score the final two goals 2:25 apart in the third period. Semin’s second goal of the game tied the affair and Sekera’s low slap shot from the point through traffic with 10:10 remaining put the Hurricanes ahead for the first time all game.
“It was nice to get the lead. Then as soon as we got the lead, we kind of sat back,” Ennis said. “They took it to us and that’s a tough loss.”
The Sabres took the first lead of the game with 9:45 to play in the first period when Hodgson capitalized on a miscue by Justin Faulk in the neutral zone. Faulk was unable to corral a puck and Hodgson picked it up, skated in over the blue line and ripped a slap shot from the faceoff circle past Khudobin.
In the six games since Hodgson has returned from an upper-body injury, he has points in five games (3+3).
Carolina tied the game by taking advantage of a Sabres turnover. Skinner intercepted an errant pass by Alexander Sulzer in front of the Sabres net and backhanded a shot past Enroth with 7:32 remaining in the first.
Flynn converted on his a scoring chance he generated in front of the Hurricanes net by circling around the goal to put the puck home 3:20 into the second period.
Once again, the Hurricanes battled back to make it 2-2 with 6:49 left in the second period. Semin skated in from the neutral zone and up the middle of the ice to wrist a shot over Enroth’s right shoulder.
While the Sabres have been able to find offense lately, their struggles on defense are mounting.
“If you’re standing still at the blue line, giving it to the opposition, it doesn’t work out too well sometimes,” Nolan said. “We’ve got to play better.”
The two teams skated into the third period tied, and, with the Hurricanes playing in the second half of a back-to-back, probably should have been the team faltered.
“That’s what makes it even more frustrating,” Ennis said. “They should be more tired and we should have the energy. They outplayed us in the third.”
The Sabres were able to kill off a four-minute penalty to Zemgus Girgensons early in the third. With captain Steve Ott also in the box for a coincidental minor, the Sabres batted back the Hurricanes attack without two of their two best penalty killers.
The penalty was only the second that Girgensons has taken through 48 games.
Buffalo will be on the road for four of their next five games. They’re back in action Saturday night in Columbus at 7 p.m.