BUFFALO – The Buffalo Sabres keep on rolling through the preseason, scoring three goals in the third period against the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday to pick up their third straight victory.
Johan Larsson scored twice and Brayden McNabb recorded three points as the Sabres defeated the Hurricanes 5-2 at First Niagara Center. Cody Hodgson picked up the game-winning goal and rookie right wing Joel Armia scored his first goal in a Sabres uniform.
Hodgson broke a 2-2 tie with 5:48 to play in regulation by redirecting a cross-ice pass from Thomas Vanek while on the rush. That opened up a run of three Sabre goals in 3:39.
Ryan Miller made 34 saves in the winning effort. The match was his first full game of the preseason.
Zach Boychuk and Chris Terry scored for Carolina.
The Sabres are looking at a youth movement this season and the lineup on Thursday was filled with many recent draft picks with limited or no NHL experience. The coaching staff sees that picking up wins – even in an exhibition schedule – can serve as valuable lessons for many of the less experienced players moving forward.
“I liked how we refocused, especially in the third period,” Sabres coach Ron Rolston said. “That’s kind of a focal point for us and whether we’re down a goal or tied or up a goal, we need to be able to finish games out or find a way to win games. Tonight we did that.”
McNabb is one of a number of young defensemen trying to make the Sabres lineup this season. He said after the game that he settled down after the first period and worked on simplifying his game.
“At first I was trying to do too much on the blue line in the first period and I just wanted to get quick wristers through and I got the assist there,” McNabb said. “Just finding the lanes and getting it through.”
Carolina pulled ahead in the first on a goal by Boychuk with 4:15 to play in the period. Hurricanes right wing Patrick Dwyer fed him a pass from the corner. Boychuk cradled the pass in the faceoff circle and fired a shot through Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen and ultimately past Miller.
The Hurricanes outshot the Sabres 19-8 in the first and Buffalo had to kill off a pair of penalties.
For Miller, it was good to see the team be able to make the necessary adjustments in a game and have that lead to another victory.
“You want to feel good. You want to feel like what you’ve done on the ice translates into something, so it is preseason and we understand that part of it,” he said. “So it’s good to just see adjustments in the middle of the game. That’s the big for me is watching the guys have a period where we get outshot, but then we go out, we win the next period, make adjustments, we control the puck. I thought we did a great job in the third period.”
Armia tied the game with 9:21 remaining in the second. As Carolina goaltender Anton Khudobin went behind the net to play the puck, Armia skated in over the end line, picked his pocket and put it in the empty net as he skated back out in front.
Armia has been played professionally in Finland since the Sabres drafted him in 16th overall in 2011. He previously suited up for his first NHL preseason game in Columbus on Tuesday.
"I think he played more confident as the game went on after he scored," Rolston said. "It was a good step forward for him."
Terry put Carolina up 2:18 later after Radek Dvorak won a battle in the corner and threw the puck out to him as a charged in on goal. A quick shot gave the Hurricanes a 2-1 lead.
Larsson’s first goal came with 1:24 remaining in the second. Standing in traffic in frot of Khudobin, he tracked a left point shot from McNabb and deflected it in to tie the game at two.
Larsson has now played in all three of the Sabres preseason games and hopes to fill a role at center on the Sabres third line come opening night on Oct. 2. Rolston said Larsson was arguably the team's best forward against Carolina.
“I felt good in the other games too, but today the chances went in and you get confidence after scoring a goal,” Larsson said. “My linemates were pretty good today, too. I played with [Ville] Leino and [Corey] Tropp and we had some good chemistry out there I think. Those guys are easy to play with.”
Larsson was credited with his second goal when he deflected in another McNabb shot in. This time, the goal came after Larsson won a face off to the right of Khudobin and then deflected McNabb’s slap shot in.
McNabb capped off the scoring with 2:09 left with a rocket from the left half wall.
Vanek served as captain for the second straight game. Hodgson and defenseman Henrik Tallinder wore the "As." Rolston has said he will rotate the captaincy throughout the preseason before naming a full-time captain before the regular season begins.
The Sabres host Toronto on Saturday for another exhibition game. Face off is scheduled for 7 p.m. The game can be heard live on WGR 550.