With a regulation loss on Monday, the Buffalo Sabres could have locked up last place in the NHL standings and would have had the chance to draft with the first or second overall pick for the second consecutive year. However, the Sabres survive another day with a 4-3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes at the First Niagara Center.
The Sabres got out flying fast in the first period beginning with Mikhail Grigorenko’s second goal of the season, and his first since January 6 against the New Jersey Devils. About 10-minutes later, Brian Gionta got the Sabres up 2-0 heading into the first intermission.
The Sabres would grab a 4-0 lead thanks to goals from Johan Larsson and Tyler Ennis. That was all Buffalo would need, even with the Hurricanes’ late rally. Anders Lindback turned aside a career-high 49 shots on 52 shots faced to help the Sabres clinch the victory.
The big story of this game was the number of chances and how much Carolina truly dominated the game throughout. The Hurricanes threw a total of 85 shots towards the Buffalo net, and controlled the pace of play especially in the third period.
What killed the Hurricanes? Untimely defensive turnovers and a couple of soft goals given up by Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward. The Hurricanes gave up the puck nine times in the game, and Cam Ward gave up four goals on 19 shots in the first two periods.
Andre Benoit did leave the game in the first period due to a lower body injury, and only played 8:36 in the game. Nic Deslauriers moved to the blueline in order to fill the open void left by Benoit.
Tyler Ennis was the game’s first star with a goal, an assist and a team-high five shots in 20:58 of total ice-time.
Sabres coach Ted Nolan did also announce following the game that Mike Weber has a sports hernia, and is expected to be out the final two games of the regular season on Friday and Saturday.
The Sabres now improve to 23-49-8 with 54 points, which are two behind the Arizona Coyotes for 29th place. The Coyotes will next play on Tuesday night in Calgary against the Flames. If the Coyotes win on Tuesday, the Sabres will clinch last place in the NHL standings for the second straight season.
For Buffalo, its next game will not be until Friday when the team travels to Columbus to take on the Blue Jackets. If the Sabres lose in regulation if the Coyotes fail to win on Tuesday, Buffalo will clinch last place. Opening face-off is scheduled for 7pm on Friday, and the game can be seen on MSG Network.