RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The Carolina Hurricanes climbed into playoff contention by stringing together victories and piling up points during two months. Nearly everyone took part in preventing their latest loss from turning into a losing streak.
Andrei Svechnikov and Justin Williams each scored goals, and the Hurricanes beat the reeling Buffalo Sabres 4-2 on Saturday night.
Jordan Staal scored a late goal for his 500th career point, Lucas Wallmark also scored early and Curtis McElhinney stopped 35 shots to help the Hurricanes win their third in four games and keep themselves in playoff position entering the final three weeks of the season.
Carolina has not gone consecutive games without a point since mid-January. The Hurricanes bounced back from a 3-0 loss a night earlier at Columbus — one of the teams also in the East’s playoff race — by scoring four straight goals and winning their ninth straight in the series with Buffalo.
“That’s what good teams do — when you have a tough one, you want to rebound and bounce back and come back with a good effort and build on that again,” Staal said. “We’ve continued to do that. . You can tell the leadership and the character in the room and everybody believing in each other.”
Carolina had 12 players show up on the score sheet, and no one had more than one point.
“Everybody’s kind of doing their job right now,” McElhinney said. “Critical time of year. It’s been fun to be in that conversation, be in a spot and to keep picking up points. Huge efforts by everybody.”
Jeff Skinner scored against his former team and Zemgus Girgensons added a late goal to prevent the Sabres from being shut out in four straight games. Buffalo has lost seven in a row and is 0-6-1 in that span.
“It’s tough when you don’t get the results,” captain Jack Eichel said. “We’ve got a big game (Sunday) at home, good hockey team (St. Louis), so just get ready for that.”
Wallmark tied it at 1 with 6:08 left in the first, going fully horizontal to stuff in the puck after Jordan Martinook’s shot slipped through Linus Ullmark’s pads. Svechnikov’s go-ahead goal came 67 seconds into the second, when he took a pretty cross-ice pass from Teuvo Teravainen and buried it past the Buffalo goalie.
Williams then added an insurance goal with 2:51 left in the second, when his shot from the boards trickled past Ullmark, and Staal reached his career milestone with a spinning backhand to make it 4-1 with 4:14 remaining.
“Not exactly my style,” Staal quipped. “Maybe I should do that more often. Not exactly what I pictured it, but I’ll take it.”
Ullmark finished with 25 saves for Buffalo, which had Eichel back from a two-game suspension for his illegal check to the head of Colorado forward Carl Soderberg last week.
For the first time since March 7, the Sabres scored a goal. Just not enough of them.
They entered having taken shutout losses in three straight games, matching an unwanted club record — but they took care of that quickly, scoring at 2:18 of the first.
And nobody on the roster has more experience scoring goals in Raleigh than Skinner, who had 115 of them during eight seasons with the Hurricanes before his offseason trade to Buffalo. He put the Sabres up 1-0 with a goal that came on an attempted pass that bounced in off McElhinney for his first goal in 13 games — and his fourth goal in three games against his old team.
NOTES: Skinner also rang the post midway through the first. … Carolina LW Micheal Ferland and Buffalo D Casey Nelson dropped the gloves about a minute after Svechnikov’s goal, with Ferland dropping Nelson with one punch and both players receiving 5-minute fighting majors.
Sabres: Play host to St. Louis on Sunday night.
Hurricanes: Play host to Pittsburgh on Tuesday night.
More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports