RALEIGH, N.C. — Michal Neuvirth has been absolutely spectacular since arriving in Buffalo. He’s also 0-2.
The Sabres’ goaltender was the unquestioned star Thursday night, stopping 51 Carolina shots. As the total suggests, the Hurricanes dominated. They picked up the victory they deserved by scoring three times in the third period, including one into an empty net, for a 4-2 win.
Neuvirth became the first Sabres goaltender to stop 50 shots since Czech Republic countryman Dominik Hasek turned aside 55 on March 1, 1996, at the New York Rangers.
Neuvirth, acquired from Washington at the trade deadline as part of the deal that sent Jaroslav Halak to the Capitals, has stopped 94 of 99 shots in his two starts with Buffalo. He’s been a hard-luck loser twice. He turned aside 42 shots in last Friday’s 2-0 loss in Florida.
“I feel good about myself,” Neuvirth said. “It would be nice if we would win any of the two games.”
Neuvirth got a taste of the Sabres’ bad luck midway through the final period. Shortly after Drew Stafford gave Buffalo a 2-1 lead, Alexander Semin’s wide shot banked off Sabres defenseman Mike Weber and into the net. Just 1:55 later, Jiri Tlusty sent a shot through traffic to put the Hurricanes up, 3-2.
Former Sabres forward Nathan Gerbe scored into the empty net with 0.4 seconds left, giving the Hurricanes four straight home wins over the Sabres. Buffalo hasn’t won in PNC Arena since Nov. 18, 2011.
“Obviously, it’s very frustrating to lose a game like that with a tying goal with a lucky bounce,” Neuvirth said.
The Sabres have lost four straight and have scored just four times. Stafford has three, while linemate Tyler Ennis has the other.
“It’s tough to win in any league with one line going,” coach Ted Nolan said.
Ennis opened the scoring midway through the first period in a way that hadn’t been done since April 10, 2010.
Tlusty slashed Ennis on a breakaway to give the Buffalo center a penalty shot. Ennis scored easily, firing high into the top left corner past Cam Ward. Buffalo’s previous successful penalty shot came nearly four years ago when Thomas Vanek beat Pascal Leclaire in Ottawa.
Carolina’s Jeff Skinner made sure the teams entered the first intermission tied, 1-1, and he made Christian Ehrhoff and Neuvirth look bad in the process. Skinner spun away from Ehrhoff below the goal line, then stunned Neuvirth with a bad-angle goal with 6:40 left.
Neuvirth was a star after that. He needed to be. Carolina had a 22-4 shot advantage in the second period and finished with a 55-23 lead. The Hurricanes fired 91 shots toward the Buffalo net, while the Sabres took 46.
The Sabres’ Alexander Sulzer returned to the lineup after missing two games with a lower-body injury, but lasted just 3:22. Tlusty pushed Sulzer into the boards, with the defenseman’s head bouncing off the glass. He’ll miss at least a week, Nolan said.
Chad Ruhwedel, who was up on an emergency recall because of Sulzer’s original injury, was sent back to the Rochester Americans prior to the game. Ruhwedel stayed with the Sabres in Carolina, though, and could return to the roster.