RALEIGH — Coming off a workmanlike shootout win in Tampa on Thursday, the Carolina Hurricanes could be forgiven if they were out of gas Friday night with the Sabres waiting for them in Raleigh.
But after allowing a goal on the opening shift of the game, the Hurricanes — namely Sebastian Aho — looked no worse for wear.
Aho had four points, including scoring an empty-net goal for his fifth career hat trick, and Martin Necas added a goal and two assists as Carolina won 5-3 in front of a standing-room-only crowd of 18,727 at PNC Arena.
“I’m not gonna lie, it felt good to get the hat trick tonight,” said Aho, who had a chance to get his third goal in the first period but shot wide on a shorthanded breakaway. “I felt like I could’ve had a couple other ones too. … I had some chances today and luckily I got a few in.”
Aho got his first goal of the night by one-timing a wide-angle shot off a pass from Teuvo Teravainen — who had his first two-assist game of the season — to tie the game 1-1 at 8:07 of the first period.
Then with Buffalo ahead again by a goal in the opening frame, Aho scored on the power play when Necas backhanded a pass into the left circle that Aho one-timed past Craig Anderson (28 saves) to tie the game at 12:45.
“He’s hot right now,” Aho said of Necas, who scored the goal that put Carolina ahead for good in the second period off a spinning backhand pass from Aho. “He’s feeling it for sure. “Great play by him on the power play there in the middle and, obviously, kind of returning the favor for him on the 5-on-5.”
Necas, who now has a team-high 17 points on the season, has points in 10 of the Hurricanes’ 11 games and five multipoint games. Aho has three three-point games already on the season.
“Everybody knows what kind of player he is,” Necas said of Aho. “Great job by him, great pass. … His pass was a little nicer.”
Things could have gone sideways for the Hurricanes after they allowed a goal just 28 seconds into the game.
Buffalo defenseman Jacob Bryson took a shot from the point that Antti Raanta (22 saves) stopped, but the rebound bounced off Andrei Svechnikov and went for a 1-0 Sabres lead.
“I thought they had us on the ropes there early,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “We were clearly not ready to go at that pace, but I thought we were able to regroup and play a pretty decent game.”
After an eventful first period that saw four goals, 12 penalty minutes — including six for Buffalo defenseman Rasmus Dahlin — and plenty of action, the Hurricanes stifled the Sabres in the final 40 minutes. Raanta made 16 saves in the final two periods, with the final Buffalo goal coming with 0.1 seconds left in the game when Dahlin scored his seventh of the season on the power play.
By then, things had already been decided with Aho’s empty-netter following Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s first goal of the season at 9:22 of the third.
Svechnikov swooped in to collect the puck off a faceoff and passed to Necas in the opposite circle, and Necas backhanded a pass through Buffalo defenseman Casey Fitzgerald’s legs that found Kotkaniemi alone in front. Kotkaniemi didn’t get all of a poke at the puck but it crossed the line for his first of the year.
“We’ve played pretty good,” Kotkaniemi said of the line he centers with Necas and Svechnikov. “I think for me the puck’s been bouncing the wrong way all the time. … Not the nicest one I’ve had so far, but I’ll take it.”
Notes: Brent Burns had a team-high six shots on goal, the third straight game he’s had at least six on net. … Kotkaniemi and Dahlin came together in the first period, with the Carolina center connecting with a gloved punch that staggered the Swedish defenseman. … The Hurricanes won 41 of 67 faceoffs, led by a 12-for-18 night by Jordan Staal. … Victor Olofsson had his ninth goal of the season to give the Sabres a 2-1 lead at 10:06 of the first period.