Sabres 4, Hurricanes 0
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP)—The Carolina Hurricanes were playing for the top seed in the Eastern Conference, an opportunity for home ice through the first three rounds of the playoffs.
The Buffalo Sabres? Simply winning another game was all the motivation they needed.
“Give these guys credit,” Buffalo goaltender Martin Biron said. “They could have just gone through the motions, mailed it in. We haven’t done that all year.”
Chris Drury scored to reach 30 goals for the first time in his NHL career, Biron got his first shutout of the season and the Sabres beat Carolina 4-0 Tuesday night to drop the Hurricanes out of the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
J.P. Dumont had two goals and Brian Campbell added another for the Sabres, who completed their regular season with five straight victories. They will be the No. 4 seed in the playoffs, where they will play Philadelphia in the first round.
“We just wanted to keep it rolling, try going into the playoffs with a win and not have any letdowns,” said Drury, who had four goals in the final three games. “We wanted to get on the plane with two points and keep it rolling.”
The Hurricanes are headed the other way, losing for the fourth time in the final five games to settle for second in the East. Goaltender Martin Gerber hardly has been sharp down the stretch and gave up at least three goals for the seventh straight.
Carolina will play Montreal in the first round after Northeast Division champ Ottawa secured the best record by beating the New York Rangers 5-1.
“That game could’ve been the 33rd, the 56th or the 82nd game,” Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette said. “The season is 82 games, and you have to play all 82. You can’t judge 82 games by one game. In the end, collectively, if you look at the entire 82 games, it was a great year.”
Buffalo jumped ahead early and never really slowed down to increase its franchise record for victories to 52. With Carolina’s Josef Vasicek in the penalty box for tripping, Dumont used a nifty pass from Maxim Afinogenov to score less than four minutes after the opening face-off.
The Sabres increased the margin to 2-0 after keeping the pressure on in the offensive zone. Eventually, Daniel Briere got the puck to Campbell, and he took his time to get close to the net. A quick slap shot sneaked through Gerber’s right arm and his chest, and it trickled in to put the Hurricanes two goals down.
“You can’t win giving up that many no matter how well you play offensively,” Carolina captain Rod Brind’Amour said. “You have to shut other teams down. We’re erratic, too erratic, I think.”
It was more than enough for Biron, who started for the first time in nearly two weeks. He and normal starter Ryan Miller are one of only four goaltender tandems in the NHL with 20 victories each, and they give coach Lindy Ruff a nice luxury for the postseason.
“It feels great,” Biron said. “I got a chance to play, and it was definitely good to be back in the pipes and good to play the way we did.”
Biron made 33 saves, including two on short-handed breakaways by Carolina center Kevyn Adams.
“It was a great team effort,” Ruff said. “Marty made the big saves when we needed them, and I thought we had some great support around him. Overall, that was as good a game as we’ve played all year long.”
Carolina RW Mark Recchi played in his 83rd game of the season, thanks to a midseason trade with Pittsburgh. … Buffalo won its final four road games and finished 25-13-3 away from home, the most road victories in the Eastern Conference. … Hurricanes LW Erik Cole, who missed his 22nd game with a fractured vertebra, will have a CT scan on Wednesday to see how he’s healing.