RALEIGH, N.C. — The Buffalo Sabres could have folded when they came up empty on a long power play, or when they gave up a goal immediately after that.
Instead they went out and rallied for a most unlikely win.
Johan Larsson scored with 2:49 left and the Sabres beat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 on Tuesday night.
Larsson’s winner came a minute after Evander Kane tied it for the Sabres, who fell behind 2-1 on Joakim Nordstrom’s goal with 6:20 remaining.
“We stuck with it. We said, ‘There’s a lot of game left. … Get one goal, and go from there,”’ Larsson said.
Kane started Buffalo’s late rally with 3:49 left. He manoeuvred into the slot, took a pass from Ryan O’Reilly from behind the net and snapped it past Cam Ward.
The winner came a few moments later, after Brian Gionta took the puck from Jeff Skinner and found Larsson behind the circles. He ripped it past Ward for his career-best seventh goal.
“Honestly, I’ve got to get the puck out of there in the last 3 minutes, and they keep it in,” Skinner said. “You’ve got to get pucks out. I didn’t get it out there and they made us pay.”
Carlo Colaiacovo also scored to help the Sabres earn their third win in five games. They’ve earned points in four of five.
“We want to take pride in these next eight games that we have here and kind of have a good feeling going into next year and finish off the season strong,” Kane said. “Tonight was a good comeback win for us and it’s something we’re going to have to be able to do in the future.”
Chad Johnson stopped 25 shots for the Sabres. Ward made 22 saves for the Hurricanes.
Chris Terry also scored for Carolina, which has lost five straight. This was without question a crushing loss for the Hurricanes, who entered seven points behind Detroit for the final playoff spot in the East. Eight of their previous nine games were decided in overtime or a shootout.
“We took maybe our foot off the gas a little bit and made a couple quick mistakes, and they capitalized on them pretty quickly and turned that game around,” Carolina centre Jordan Staal said. “And we’re sitting here without any points.”
Overtime appeared to be the worst-case scenario for Carolina after Nordstrom’s spinning goal, which came off a pass from Staal 4 seconds after the Hurricanes killed a 4-minute power play. Brad Malone had been called for two penalties.
“Sometimes that can really put a team down, and we were still real positive on the bench, and we showed great fight not only getting the one but getting the win in regulation,” Colaiacovo said.
Carolina, which entered as the least-penalized team in the NHL with just 219 penalty minutes, received 22 more in this one — and 14 of those were issued to Skinner following a fight late in the second period.
“There’s only so much you can take before you don’t take it anymore, really,” Skinner said.
During that dustup, Larsson delivered a few shots to Skinner, earning a minor penalty and drawing the ire of the crowd.
He saved his biggest blow for last.
“We’re looking like we’re going to be on the wrong end,” coach Dan Bylsma said, “and set the stage for the comeback.”
NOTES: Terry has scored in two straight games and has points in his last three. … Buffalo rookie centre Jack Eichel was back in the lineup after missing one game due to illness.