BUFFALO, N.Y. -- With Ryan Miller standing tall at the other end, the Carolina Hurricanes regrouped late and focused on getting pucks to the net with traffic in front.
It worked to perfection.
Jay Harrison broke a 1-1 deadlock with just under 5 minutes remaining, and the Carolina Hurricanes went on to defeat the Buffalo Sabres 3-1 at the First Niagara Center on Friday night.
"We said let's get traffic, let's go to the net, let's throw more pucks to the net and that's what happened," Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said. "It just happened that he gets in there and it finds a hole and it gets through."
In a game that featured quality chances on both ends -- the teams combined for 83 shots on goal -- it was an ugly goal that made the difference.
"I thought it was beautiful," Harrison said. "In those kinds of games, especially early in the season where teams are still getting their legs under them and working on executing gameplans, I think if you look around the league those are the goals that are winning games."
"I've got to find through the traffic, didn't pick up on the release, saw it kind of halfway through," Sabres goalie Ryan Miller said of the game-winning goal. "I was just a little too far to the side."
It was Carolina's second win over the Sabres in as many days after a 6-3 victory Thursday night. Carolina is now 2-2 after a 0-2 start to the season.
Alexander Semin also scored for the Hurricanes, and Jeff Skinner added an empty-netter with 25 seconds remaining.
"The first couple games, it was a push for us ... we just didn't seem like we had our legs in game shape yet and I think these last couple games we're finally coming into the team that we were near the end of last year," Muller said.
Backup goalie Dan Ellis got his first start of the season for Carolina and was tremendous, finishing with 40 saves.
"He's confident," Muller said of Ellis. "He's been up here before and I think he's really excited to get that opportunity to be in the NHL again. ... He's a big part of that win tonight."
Thomas Vanek had the lone goal for the Sabres, who dropped to 2-2. Miller had 39 saves.
The teams struggled to find the back of the net until the final period. Vanek broke the scoreless tie just under two minutes into the third period with his strike on the power play. Vanek picked up the puck along the wall and looped inside the left circle before putting a wrist shot past Ellis.
Vanek is off to a hot start to the season with nine points through four games.
"Thomas is off to one helluva start," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "He's played awesome. The effort on the goal and the shot was tremendous."
The Hurricanes responded less than 2 minutes later on the power play. Alexander Semin ripped a wrist shot high to the glove side and tied the game 1-1 3:41 into the third. It was Semin's first goal with the Hurricanes.
The teams got off to a sloppy start with a combined 34 penalty minutes in the first period. That included 17 penalty minutes for Hurricanes defenseman Tim Gleason, who received a 10-minute misconduct following his fight with Steve Ott.
The Sabres' best chance to take charge of the game came at the start of the second period when they registered 10 shots in the first 8:21 of the period. They outshot the Hurricanes 18-9 in the second, but Ellis held strong for Carolina.
"I thought at the start of the second period we had five or six good opportunities, we missed on a few but we gave up some beauties tonight again, some play by our defense hurt us in a couple situations," Ruff said.
NOTES: This was the second of three meetings between the Sabres and Hurricanes this season. ... It was the 185th meeting all-time between Buffalo and Carolina. Buffalo leads the series 96-65-24. ... The Sabres wrapped up their second of nine sets of back-to-back games this season after also playing Carolina on Thursday. ... Vanek entered the game with eight points in the first three games of the season. He's the first player in Sabres history to accomplish that feat.