The streak is over! No, not the latest losing run of rancidity, which extended to seven games, but the Sabres scored some goals! However, it came in a losing effort, by a score of 4-2 to the Carolina Hurricanes. Curtis McElhinney made 34 saves and Jordan Staal notched his 500th point of his NHL career for the important Hurricanes victory.
Justin Williams scored the eventual game-winning goal late in the second period. It was his 21st goal of the year, and it was one he never expected to get. As the middle frame wore down, the Hurricanes were at the end of a long shift in the Sabres end, when Williams decided just to fire a low shot towards Ullmark while his back was virtually against the glass, outside of the faceoff circle. The shot found a small hole between Linus Ullmark’s skate and the post, and Carolina augmented their lead to 3-1 at that point.
It was the second soft goal that Ullmark had allowed to that point in the contest, as Lucas Wallmark tied the game at 1 after Jordan Martinook’s point shot squirted through the Sabres netminder and was laying in the blue paint. Casey Nelson decided not to pick up his man who at this point was behind Linus Ullmark, and he tapped it into the open net to tie the game at one.
The win improved Carolina’s home record to 19-11-4, and more importantly, extended their point total to 85 points, which prior to the end of the Blue Jackets/Bruins game, was a 2 point lead over Columbus.
As mentioned, the loss extends the Sabres losing streak to seven games. The loss pushes Buffalo’s road record to 11-20-5.
It should be noted though, this was a strong effort for the Sabres, as they out-shot Carolina 37-29. Each line had numerous chances, and there were stretches of time where the Sabres controlled play in the Carolina end of the ice. So, though there are no moral victories, the effort, and opportunities were there for the Sabres.
Jeff Skinner managed to snap the goal-less streak of both his team and himself early in the first period with his 37th of the season, with a helper from Sam Reinhart and Matt Hunwick. Buffalo executed a nice passing sequence in the neutral zone, started by Jack Eichel that eventually found Matt Hunwick rattling the puck around behind the Carolina net. Skinner picked the puck up and walked out front and attempted a cross-crease pass to Sam Reinhart, but puck-luck intervened and it caromed in off of McElhinney for the Sabres’ 1-0 lead.
Jordan Staal managed to pot his 7th goal of the season, which also happened to be his 500th point of his NHL career on a little backhand shot from the slot, to augment the Hurricane lead to three.
Zemgus Girgensons added a late tally to perhaps give the Sabres a little offensive momentum leaving Raleigh.
Linus Ullmark had a relatively terrible hockey game, as he made 25 saves on 29 shots fired at him, with really only one of the goals being of quality. Aside from the above-mentioned two soft goals, the Staal goal left a bit to be desired, as you don’t often see backhand shots from the slot make it to the twine.
Curtis McElhinney on the other hand was very strong for Carolina in making his 34 saves in the winning effort. His rebound control was particularly of note this evening, as the Sabres found themselves with excellent first-scoring opportunities, but not many second chances at the Carolina net-minder.
Up next for the Sabres, they’ll play a “matinee” of sorts on Sunday, when old friend Ryan O’Reilly and the St. Louis Blues come to town. Puck-drop is scheduled for 5 p.m. from KeyBank Center in downtown Buffalo.