Hurricanes rally behind Semin, Sekera to beat Sabres

Andrej Sekera fires the puck to score the game-winning goal for the Hurricanes.

Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images


A castoff in Buffalo, Andrej Sekera is proving to be a big contributor in Carolina.

The Hurricanes defenseman scored the go-ahead goal with 10:10 remaining, and added two assists in a 5-3 win over the Sabres on Thursday night, in Sekera’s first game against his former team.

”You always have memories. I spent seven years here. It’s a big part of my life,” said Sekera, who was traded to Carolina in June after having difficulty earning a regular role in Buffalo.

”At the end of the day, it was a business. I got traded. I’m trying to help Carolina win every game. And every win feels good.”

Sekera is more than doing his part. The goal was his eighth of the season after he combined for 17 in 339 career games with the Sabres. And his two assists upped his points total to 28 – tops among Carolina defensemen, and one short of his career high.

”It’s very possible he could be our MVP so far this year,” Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said of Sekera. ”From Day 1, until now, he’s been our most consistent player.”

Alexander Semin scored twice to give him six goals in four games. Jeff Skinner and Jiri Tlusty, with an empty-netter, also scored in a game Carolina (22-19-9) overcame three one-goal deficits and improved to 8-3 in its past 11.

Cody Hodgson, Tyler Ennis and Brian Flynn scored for Buffalo (13-29-7), which dropped to 0-3-2 in its past five games.

Sabres captain Steve Ott was disappointed by how Buffalo let up against an opponent playing on consecutive nights, following Carolina’s 3-2 win at Philadelphia.

”You have a tired team that comes in and you should be the aggressor come the third period,” Ott said. ”I thought the first two were strong, but the third period I felt like they outworked us. And it shouldn’t have been that way.”

The Sabres appeared to take control in the opening minute of the third period, when Ennis one-timed in a rebound from the left circle.

The Hurricanes struck back by scoring twice over a 2:25 span.

Semin tied it at the 7:25 mark. It was set up by captain Eric Staal, who out-muscled Sabres defenseman Henrik Tallinder for the puck behind the Buffalo net. Staal fed a pass into the lower right circle, from where Semin sneaked a shot that beat Jhonas Enroth on the short side.

Sekera’s goal came as he worked the puck across the top and waited for an opening. With teammate Riley Nash parked in front, Sekera blasted a shot that sneaked in through Enroth’s legs.

Hurricanes goalie Anton Khudobin then made sure the lead stood up in finishing with 26 saves.

He got his left pad out to stop Ennis’ low shot with 50 seconds remaining.

Khudobin’s best save came in the first period, when he stuck out his right pad to foil Zemgus Girgensons, who was in alone on a short-handed breakaway.

”It was a great comeback,” Khodobin said. ”Even after they had the third goal right at the start of the third period, it didn’t break us. Guys stuck with the plan.”

Carolina improved to 4-0-1 in its past five trips to Buffalo, and 8-1-2 in its past 11 meetings against the Sabres.

Sekera got an opportunity to clarify what some Sabres fans perceived to be a disparaging comment he made about Buffalo in September. He was quoted as saying, ”I think everything is better than Buffalo.”

Sekera said he was referring to the weather, not the city.

”Definitely was taken out of context,” he said. ”I meant that every city is better than Buffalo weather-wise, not living-wise. I spent seven years here so I won’t be burying any people in the organization. They brought me in this league. They made me the player I am right now.”

The weather in the northeast has affected the Hurricanes. Their game at Philadelphia was pushed back a day because of wintry weather. And Carolina’s first scheduled game at Buffalo on Jan. 7 was postponed to Feb. 25 because of a blizzard.

NOTES: The Sabres are starting to find their offense. They have scored three or more in regulation in each of their past five games for their best streak since doing that in eight straight games from March 19-April 3, 2012. … Sabres C Phil Varone had an assist in making his NHL debut a day after being called up from AHL Rochester. … Hurricanes LW Drayson Bowman returned after missing four games with a lower body injury.