BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Christian Ehrhoff scored twice, including the go-ahead goal with 44 seconds left, in lifting the Buffalo Sabres to a 3-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night in the NHL’s first game after its Olympic break.
Ryan Miller played a key role in stopping the first 20 shots he faced and 36 overall in what might be the star goalie’s final game in Buffalo before the league’s trade deadline on March 5. Miller also assisted on both of Ehrhoff’s goals, while Drew Stafford also had two assists.
Tyler Ennis also scored for Buffalo, which snapped a four-game skid, and won for only the third time in its past 14 games (3-8-3).
Eric Staal and Alexander Semin scored for the Hurricanes, who lost to Buffalo in regulation for the first time in seven meetings, dating to a 1-0 loss at Carolina on Nov. 18. 2011.
The teams got an early start coming out of the NHL’s two-week break. The game was originally scheduled to be played Jan. 9, but postponed after a blizzard hit Buffalo.
Ehrhoff opened the scoring with a power-play goal 5:34 into the second period, and then sealed the victory in a game the Sabres never trailed despite bveing outshot 38-18.
Circling the Hurricanes’ net, Ehrhoff stopped and spun in the right circle, where he attempted to feed the puck through the crease to teammate Marcus Foligno. The puck instead glanced off the stick of Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk and floated in over goaltender Cam Ward.
Ennis put the Sabres ahead 2-1 with 7:47 left by diving head first and poking in a loose puck during a scramble in front, and after Ward stopped Matt Moulson’s chance in front.
The Hurricanes, however, tied it less than 4 minutes later on Semin’s goal. Driving toward the net, Semin used Sabres defender Alexander Sulzer as a screen before snapping a shot inside the right post.
Miller showed no signs of jet lag despite returning to Buffalo on Monday after traveling from the Sochi Games, where he served as the United States backup to Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick. Miller appeared in only one game in Russia, making 17 saves before allowing a goal with 18 seconds left in a 5-1 preliminary round win over Slovenia on Feb. 16.
Early into the second period, he got a piece of Faulk’s snap shot from the left circle, and then recovered in time to turn aside Manny Malhotra’s attempt to convert the rebound in front.
For Miller, this might be one of his last appearances for Buffalo. Before the game, general manager Tim Murray said he’s shopping the 11-year veteran with the intention of dealing Miller before the NHL trade deadline on March 5.
Miller is in the final year of his contract and Murray is unsure whether the 33-year-old is prepared to re-sign with a team that’s rebuilding through youth.
Following the game, Miller spent time visiting with fans at the penalty box. He then got a cheer from the few remaining fans inside the arena as he headed to the locker room about 10 minutes after the game ended.
Ehrhoff’s first goal came on the Sabres’ first shot on net in the second period. Set up at the blue line, and with Matt Moulson creating a screen in front, Ehrhoff blasted a shot that glanced off Ward’s glove, and then had enough momentum to trickle in over the line.
Ward played his first game since a 5-4 overtime win over Montreal on Dec. 31, and was sidelined with a lower-body injury.
The Hurricanes finally solved Miller with 3:02 left. Faulk pounced on Moulson’s turnover at the Hurricanes blue line and fed a pass up the right wing to set up Staal on a 2-on-1 break. Driving into the circle, Staal patiently waited for Miller to make a move before snapping a shot through the goalie’s legs.
NOTES: LW Moulson (upper body) returned to the Sabres’ lineup after missing four games before the break. Also back was Buffalo C Cody McCormick, who missed 24 games games with an upper-body injury. … Buffalo also snapped an eight game home losing streak, during which it had gone 0-5-3. … As a result of the rescheduled game, the Hurricanes opened a five-game road trip, their longest of the season.