RALEIGH, N.C. — The Buffalo Sabres were too careless with and without the puck to keep up with Carolina. They have their first loss to prove it.
“We made some ill-advised decisions, and a lot of different guys, too,” coach Lindy Ruff said after a 6-3 loss to the Hurricanes.
It seemed everyone from captain Jason Pominville to 18-year-old rookie Mikhail Grigorenko had moments to forget Thursday night, and it led to a game to forget. Carolina, which totaled just one goal during its opening two losses, repeatedly ran away from the Sabres as the typically loud crowd in PNC Arena roared.
“It wasn’t our best game,” Sabres center Tyler Ennis said. “We didn’t do the right things with the puck. I was guilty of that, for sure. It was tough. We’ve got to bounce back and be better.”
The Sabres get an immediate chance at redemption. The teams meet at 7 tonight in First Niagara Center.
Carolina captain Eric Staal scored three times and former Rookie of the Year Jeff Skinner added two to propel the Hurricanes. They offset the now-expected contributions of Thomas Vanek, Pominville and Cody Hodgson, who combined for three goals and two assists and have reached the score sheet in every game.
That line was hardly immune from mistakes, though, as it was on the ice for five of Carolina’s six goals.
“They made some great plays and have done the bulk of our scoring,” Ruff said, “but at the same time they were on for quite a few.”
After a scoreless first period, the teams kept the scoreboard operator busy with a six-pack in the second. Carolina scored four times, including the final two in just nine seconds after Buffalo tied the game.
“It’s just unfortunate that it happens when we battle back,” Pominville said.
Skinner opened the scoring 1:02 into the period. The Hurricanes’ short-handed unit doubled the lead three minutes later, stealing a pass from Pominville. Defenseman Justin Faulk bolted out of his zone along the right wall to start a three-on-one. He got all the way to the faceoff dot in Buffalo’s end and fired a slap shot between the pads of Jhonas Enroth, who finished with 32 saves in his first start of the season.
“I’m very disappointed in myself,” said Enroth, who is winless in 12 decisions dating to Nov. 26, 2011. “I felt a little bit lost. I wasn’t really in the right position on a couple of shots.”
The Sabres answered with a pair of goals midway through the period. Hodgson made it 2-1 with 11:11 left. Pominville tied it with 9:21 to go while horizontal in the slot as he reached out his stick while falling to deflect Christian Ehrhoff’s point shot.
The tie was short-lived. Carolina’s two-goal flurry left Buffalo and its top two centers reeling.
Skinner stole the puck from Hodgson behind the net and skated out front to tuck it home before Enroth could react to the turnover. While the red-clad crowd of 18,081 was still roaring, Staal beat Ennis on the center-ice faceoff and got behind the center to accept a breakaway pass by defenseman Jamie McBain.
“They capitalized on what we gave them,” Hodgson said.
The Sabres clawed back again with 6:06 gone in the third as Vanek continued his MVP performance. The winger skated through the slot and dished a no-look backhand pass onto the tape of the driving Pominville, who pointed with glee at Vanek after the easy goal.
That was the last time Buffalo smiled. Staal went top shelf with a cross-ice pass with 10:34 to play, then added an empty-net goal with 1:28 to go to bring hats from the crowd 18,081.
Grigorenko played just 2:19 in the second period after a shaky first. He finished with a shot and a giveaway in 11:47.
“We didn’t do the right things with the puck against a desperate team,” said Ennis, who is one of eight forwards without a goal while Pominville, Hodgson and Vanek have eight of the Sabres’ 10 tallies so far. “It’s frustrating. They did everything they could offensively to get us the win. We need some secondary scoring, so our line’s overdue. We need to have a good one.”