First in shots, last in goals. Despite that statistical oddity, the Carolina Hurricanes never wavered.
Instead, they did what they do best. They kept shooting, and those pucks finally started finding the net.
Eric Staal scored three goals, Jeff Skinner added two and the Hurricanes earned their first victory of the season by handing the Buffalo Sabres their first loss, 6-3 on Thursday night.
”It’s going to come. We’ve got good enough players, good enough skill to score,” Staal said. ”We just need to play the right way and play a little bit more physical and aggressive one-on-one, and we did a great job tonight.”
Skinner and Staal scored 9 seconds apart during Carolina’s four-goal second period that also included a short-handed score by Justin Faulk.
Jordan Staal, Joni Pitkanen and Zac Dalpe each had two assists and Cam Ward made 30 saves for the Hurricanes, who entered as one of five winless teams in the NHL.
Their beefed-up offense – which added Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin during the offseason – entered averaging an NHL-best 39 shots on goal yet managed a league-fewest two goals in their first two games.
”You’ve just got to stick with it,” Skinner said. ”You’ve got to be tougher, I think, around their net and today we beared down a little bit more and you stick with it, you keep putting that many pucks on the net, you’re going to get a bounce here or there, and one’s going to go in for you.”
Jason Pominville’s second goal made it 4-3 with 13:54 left. Eric Staal restored Carolina’s two-goal lead by firing the puck past Jhonas Enroth at 10:34.
”Good teams do” respond, Eric Staal said. ”When you have opportunities that go the other way and end up in your net, you need to regroup and refocus. Good teams find a way to refocus, and we did that tonight.”
Staal polished off his 13th career hat trick with an empty-netter with 1:28 left.
Cody Hodgson also scored and Thomas Vanek had two assists for the Sabres. Enroth, who had allowed one goal in two previous career starts against Carolina, stopped 32 shots and said he ”wasn’t in the right position (for) a couple of shots.”
Carolina outshot Buffalo 38-33 and put the puck on net a season-best 21 times during its busy second period.
The most dizzying sequence started when Skinner broke a 2-all tie by pushing a wraparound past Enroth’s left pad with 6:04 left.
The Hurricanes won the ensuing draw, and Eric Staal slipped through the Buffalo defense and beat Enroth with a backhand at 5:55 to make it 4-2 and cap a frenetic period in which the teams combined for six goals.
”You’ve got to get big saves on those plays or they end up hurting you,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said, ”and that one really hurt us.”
Skinner gave Carolina its first lead of the season 62 seconds into the second with a tricky backhand over Enroth’s left shoulder. Faulk then made it 2-0 with 15:54 left when he stormed down the ice on a short-handed 3-on-1 rush and blasted a slap shot by Enroth.
Then it was the Sabres’ turn to get the offense going.
Hodgson pulled Buffalo within a goal at 11:10 by beating Ward with a backhand of a loose rebound, and Pominville tied it at 2 with 9:21 left with a redirection of Christian Ehrhoff’s slap shot.
”I think we gave up the puck too much,” Pominville said. ”We battled back a couple of times . (but) we gave up too many rush opportunities and were a little too casual with the puck. It just wasn’t our usual game.”
NOTES:Skinner finished with his eighth career multigoal game. . The teams play again Friday night in Buffalo. . The Hurricanes’ record for quickest two goals came in 1987 when Sylvain Turgeon scored twice in 6 seconds. . Buffalo didn’t put a shot on goal until LW Marcus Foligno’s backhand roughly 7-1/2 minutes in.