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Staal's hat trick helps Hurricanes' stalled offense get going

The SportsXchange

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Once Eric Staal and the Carolina Hurricanes got in a good offensive flow, they settled in to do what they do best.

Staal's hat trick capped an offensive outburst for the Hurricanes in a 6-3 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night at PNC Arena.

"It felt a little better," Staal said. "I knew if I stayed with the game plan and we stayed with the game plan, we'd be rewarded."

The Hurricanes, who managed a total of two goals across their first two games, scored four times in about a 13-minute span of the second period.

Jeff Skinner scored two second-period goals as the Hurricanes won for the first time this season. Staal's empty-net goal with 1:28 left gave him his third tally.

"Obviously we needed to be better (than the first two games)," Skinner said. "I think we learned. ... It's great to get that first (victory). You don't want to go too long without it."

The Sabres (2-1), who were attempting to start a season with a 3-0 record for the fifth time in franchise history, received two goals from Jason Pominville. Jhonas Enroth was in goal for Buffalo, giving top goalie Ryan Miller the night off.

Carolina goalie Cam Ward stopped 30 shots, including a key save with close to six minutes remaining on a Buffalo power play.

Skinner scored 62 seconds into the second period, giving the Hurricanes (1-2) a lead for the first time this season.

"You could see the tension going away from our guys and they just started to play," Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said. "It's nice to play with the lead."

About three minutes later, the Hurricanes went end-to-end with defenseman Justin Faulk scoring in transition for a short-handed tally.

"I think we gave up the puck too much," Pominville said. "We gave up too many rush opportunities, a little too casual with the puck."

Buffalo struck back before the midway mark of the second period, with Cody Hodgson making an easy deposit of a rebound for his team-leading third goal of the season.

After Pominville's redirect of Christian Ehrhoff's blast tied the score, Skinner and Staal scored in a nine-second span and Carolina had its two-goal edge back.

It had been six-plus years since the Hurricanes notched two goals within nine seconds.

Muller said better defense from the Hurricanes aided the entire performance.

"The other stuff will take care of itself," Muller said. "Just stay the course."

Pominville closed the gap to 4-3 before Staal's second goal with 10:34 to play.

The Hurricanes took the game's first six shots on goal but came up empty. The first period ended scoreless, marking the first time in three games that Carolina didn't yield a first-period goal.

The Sabres applied pressure early in the third period, but that eventually waned.

"We have to play better the whole game," Enroth said.

NOTES: Right winger Drew Stafford played in his 400th career game, all coming with the Sabres, on Thursday night. He's the fourth player on the current Buffalo roster to play 400 or more games with the team. ... Center Zac Dalpe, who was a healthy scratch two nights earlier against Tampa Bay, assisted on the Hurricanes' first goal against Buffalo. ... Defenseman Joe Corvo was a healthy scratch for the Hurricanes. He was replaced in the lineup by defenseman Jamie McBain, who made his season debut. ... Left winger Matt Ellis sat out for the Sabres after playing the first two games. ... The teams complete a home-and-home set Friday night in Buffalo, N.Y.
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