BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Victor Olofsson had a goal and an assist in the third period to lead the Buffalo Sabres past the Carolina Hurricanes 4-2 on Tuesday night.
Jeff Skinner, Casey Mittelstadt and Dylan Cozens also scored for the Sabres, and Craig Anderson made 32 saves in the opening game of a home-and-home set with the Hurricanes.
Earning a point for the ninth time in 10 games (6-1-3), Buffalo held off being eliminated from the playoffs for an NHL-record 11th consecutive season.
“We’re super confident as a group right now,” Olofsson said.
Nino Niederreiter had a goal and an assist for Carolina. Jesper Fast also scored, Jordan Staal had two assists, and Frederik Andersen stopped 18 shots.
The Metropolitan Division-leading Hurricanes have lost consecutive games in regulation while on the cusp of reaching 100 points for the second time in franchise history and clinching a fourth straight playoff berth. They lead the New York Rangers by two points in the division standings, with one fewer game played.
Niederreiter called the Hurricanes’ performance “unacceptable.”
“We just took the game for granted,” he said. “Thought it was going to be an easy game. And that wasn’t the case.”
Rasmus Dahlin set up Olofsson’s go-ahead goal with 7:42 remaining in the third period. Dahlin sent a stretch pass from the blue line to the left circle, where a wide-open Olofsson sniped a wrist shot to the far corner for his 16th goal.
“He’s an elite shooter,” Dahlin said. “When he’s in his office, you have to give him the puck. He knows what to do down there.”
Cozens added an insurance goal, his 13th, off the rebound from Olofsson’s shot on a power play with 4:49 left.
Overcoming a wrist injury that caused him to miss 10 games and contributed to a 30-game scoreless stretch, Olofsson has tallied four goals and three assists over his past five games.
“I feel way more confident right now,” Olofsson said. “The puck seems to keep finding the net, which is a little bit of a relief, and makes things a lot easier.”
Niederreiter tied it for the Hurricanes 4:10 into the third period. Staal threaded a pass from behind the net between two Sabres defenders to set up Niederreiter in the slot for his 22nd goal.
That came after the Hurricanes played “just a terrible second period,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “Had a great third. But it’s too late. Leave it up to chance. We got what we deserved there.”
Buffalo went ahead 2-1 on goals from Skinner and Mittelstadt early in the second period. Skinner, a former Hurricane, finished a 2-on-1 with Tage Thompson to score his 29th at 1:21, and Mittelstadt got his fourth goal 4:38 later on a wrist shot from the right circle.
Staal recorded his 600th NHL point on Fast’s goal that gave the Hurricanes the lead at 14:58 of the first. Carolina’s captain poked the puck away from Buffalo’s Cody Eakin in the offensive zone, and Niederreiter’s backhand pass found Fast alone in front of the net for his 12th goal.
Carolina can secure a playoff spot with one more victory following the New York Islanders’ loss to the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night. The Hurricanes host the Islanders on Friday.
“We’ve got to play our game and make sure we have good habits going into every game,” Fast said. “It’s not like you can just push a button and then you’re ready to go. Every game, you’ve got to be ready and play the right way.”
The Sabres will be eliminated from the postseason if the Washington Capitals earn a standings point against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night, or with another loss.
“It’s a daunting task ahead each and every night,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “But our guys are showing progress. And that’s what we wanted from day one.”
Carolina had won 11 in a row against Buffalo, its longest streak against a single opponent in franchise history. … Hurricanes forwards Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen each snapped seven-game point streaks. … Sabres forward Kyle Okposo played in his 900th NHL game. … Skinner has a point in all six games he’s played against his former team. … Hurricanes center Steven Lorentz, the grandson of former Sabres player and longtime broadcaster Jim Lorentz, replaced Derek Stepan on the fourth line after being scratched in consecutive games. It was the first time in 105 NHL games that the 25-year-old Lorentz played in Buffalo.
Carolina hosts Thursday night’s series finale. A win would give the Hurricanes 100 points in 71 games, matching the pace set by the 2005-06 team that finished with 112 points (52-22-8) and won the Stanley Cup.