RALEIGH, N.C. – Micheal Ferland set a new personal standard on Friday.
The gritty Carolina Hurricanes forward posted a career single-game high three points (1g, 2a) and set up a two-goal finish from linemate Sebastian Aho in a 4-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres at PNC Arena.
“When he is playing his game, his physical presence and his finishing touch makes him a super effective player, and was obviously our best player out there tonight,” Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour said.
Captain Justin Williams added a goal, his fourth in as many games, while goalkeeper Curtis McElhinney made 30 stops to preserve the win.
Jeff Skinner, Jason Pominville, and Kyle Okposo posted goals for the Sabres with Carter Hutton getting tagged with the loss in a 26-save effort.
The first of three meetings between the two teams this season was highlighted by Skinner’s return as the former Hurricanes leading scorer and 2011 Calder Trophy winner stepped back onto the ice surface where he began his career.
Much hype came along with Skinner as a result of the resurgence of his scoring touch this season leading the Sabres in goals scored (29) and sitting second in the NHL in that category.
Fittingly, Skinner received a warm reception from a mixed Canes and Sabres crowd of 17,199 who watched and cheered the video tribute presented on the scoreboard during the midpoint of the first period.
Shortly after that, Ferland got everyone’s minds off Skinner, and scored his 13th goal of the season at the 10:25 mark to put Carolina ahead 1-0.
Skinner then grabbed the spotlight back when he evened the score at one apiece on a power play to end the period.
“We weren’t very good, especially in the first period,” Brind’Amour said.
“We were very, very fortunate. We got a lucky bounce. We didn’t play well, but we played a little better as the game went on.”
Williams put together a solo effort along the left wing that culminated in a roofed puck over Hutton’s stick-side shoulder that reclaimed the lead before Pominville made it a 2-2 game 30 seconds later at the five-minute mark.
Back-to-back goals off Buffalo defenders from Aho gave the Hurricanes a comfortable 4-2 lead heading into the third.
“A couple of lucky ones,” Aho called them afterwards.
What looked like a smooth finish, got a little bumpy when Okposo got his own puck luck as his crease pass from the corner deflected off Carolina forward Saku Maenalanen’s stick and over McElhinney’s shoulder with 3:12 to play.
Though unsuccessful in holding onto a one-goal lead the night before in Tampa Bay, Carolina managed to deny Skinner and the Sabres any further chance to pull even and won its sixth game of its last seven played.
“We don’t seem to make things easy,” Williams said.
“We get up a couple goals and we give up one late. Then we’re scrambling; so that we have to clean up. I’m happy we’re gettin’ the two points, but its important to make it easy on ourselves when we can.”
Peter Koutroumpis: 401-323-8960, @pksport