RALEIGH, N.C. – It wasn’t pretty, but the Buffalo Sabres got the job done.
The Sabres gave up a 3-1 lead in the third period but were able to hang on against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday at PNC Arena for their first victory of the season.
“Sometimes you take an ugly win versus a beautiful loss,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said after Buffalo’s 4-3 shootout victory.
Nolan and the coaching staff were looking for a much better effort than the one the team put forth the night before at home against Anaheim. After that loss, the coaches and players each sought to find answers to the mounting problems facing the team. It started with putting together as close to a 60-minute game as they could.
“I’ve never questioned the character of this team once. We weren’t playing very well for whatever reason,” Nolan said. “We have to find a solution to our problems and work it out together. Tonight, we had some big performances.”
Even though they gave up the lead in the third, they were able to string together a strong overtime period. Zemgus Girgensons put the shootout away in the bottom of the eighth round with a backhand goal past Cam Ward.
Marcus Foligno scored twice in the game for Buffalo and Torrey Mitchell also tallied. It was Foligno's first multI-point game since March 6 at Tampa Bay (1+1) and his first two-goal game since March 12, 2012 at the Rangers (2+0).
Jhonas Enroth made 22 saves in regulation and allowed only one goal in the shootout.
“It’s been a tough start for us and we felt this was the night. It was pretty emotional to win that game in the shootout,” Enroth said.
It seemed like the game could have gone south for the Sabres in a hurry toward the end of regulation. Hurricanes Zach Boychuk scored off an offensive faceoff with 1:48 to play to force overtime.
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“When you’re going through what we went through, you’ve gotta take baby steps to get out of it,” Nolan said. “…We bent but we didn’t break.”
EIGHT WAS ENOUGH
In the shootout, Girgensons was the eighth shooter for Buffalo and the 16th shooter overall. With the goal, he’s now 2-for-5 in his career in the shootout.
“I picked a move right off the bat if we had to go through that many players. I just did what I had to do,” he said. “…I’m glad to get the win, but we could have gotten out of here 10 minutes quicker.”
His other shootout goal decided a game against the Ottawa Senators on Dec. 10.
Heading into the game, the Sabres were 3-7-0 in their past 10 games against the Hurricanes and 4-4-2 in Carolina. Buffalo hasn’t won a game in Raleigh since Nov. 18, 2011.
By winning Tuesday night, they were able to avoid their first five-game losing streak on the road against the Hurricanes franchise since they lost six in a row from April 8, 1995 to April 7, 1997 when the team was in Hartford.
The first three goals of the game came as a result of turnovers.
Buffalo struck first when Tyson Strachan collected a turnover by Andrej Sekera and moved the puck up to Stewart, who moved in over the Hurricanes blue line. He held up until a passing lane to opened up and then hit Foligno in stride. Foligno waited for Ward to go down and put the puck into the net with 7:53 remaining in the first period.
“It felt like we were in a practice mode like we were at end of practice we had time. It’s the longest 2-on-1 time I ever had,” Foligno said.
On the backcheck, Sekera tripped over Ward’s right pad and crashed hard into the endboards. He did not return.
The secondary assist was Strachan’s first point as a Sabre. He made his debut for the team after serving as a healthy scratch for the first three games of the season.
Foligno was able to make it 3-1 when took a pass from Hodgson just over the blue line and found open ice down the middle. Skating through two Hurricanes players 2:54 into the third, he used the defenseman as a screen and wristed a shot in past Ward.
Foligno missed Buffalo’s game on Monday due to injury. He played on a line with Stewart and Cody Hodgson at center. The line made things happen to but Buffalo ahead by two goals 2:54 into the third.
Hodgson moved from the wing back to center, his natural position for the first time this season. Nolan thought the move paid off.
“If it didn’t pump up Cody, it certainly got Stewart going and Marcus going. I thought that line tonight was really good for us,” Nolan said.
The Hurricanes tied it at one when Riley Nash capitalized on a Sabres turnover in their own zone. Enroth went to play the puck. He put home a rebound off Enroth’s pad 30 seconds into the second period.
Mitchell scored his first of the season soon after. Sabres captain Brian Gionta stole the puck from Patrick Brown at the Carolina blue line and fed Mitchell, who was winding up for a one-timer in the left faceoff circle. He beat Ward high to make it 2-1 at the 1:53 mark.
“It was kind of a knuckle puck, but it felt good to go in,” Mitchell said. “We said before the game, ‘No shot’s a bad shot.’ It was good to finally just get a shot on net and lucky for it to go in.”
Gionta now has 27 career points (10+17) against the Hurricanes, which leads all Sabres.
THE HURRICANES’ LATE PUSH
Chris Terry scored with 7:49 remaining in the third to make it 3-2 and set Carolina up for a comeback.
After Mitchell went to the box for hooking with just under four minutes to play, the tides really began to turn in Carolina’s favor.
With extended zone time, they finally broke through. Boychuk scored in front off of a faceoff with 1:48 left in the third to tie things it up. Initially, the goal was waved off, but video review made clear that the puck it the back crossbar and came out.
The Sabres have had trouble in third periods through four games this season. The eventual game-winning goal against them in each game had been scored in the final 20 minutes.
The team will try to learn from what went wrong and use these experiences to improve.
“It’s tough but it’s something that’s fixable. We’ve got confidence now and this win really does help out,” Foligno said. “Now we’ve got to focus on the next game. Good teams finish off games and play full 60 minutes.”
The Sabres have a pair games this weekend. They host the Florida Panthers on Friday and then the Boston Bruins come to town Saturday night.