Hurricanes rally past Sabers, clinch berth in Stanley Cup Playoffs

Hurricanes rally past Sabers, clinch berth in Stanley Cup Playoffs

RALEIGH, NC – The Carolina Hurricanes clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs when they rallied for a 5-3 win against the Buffalo Sabers at PNC Arena on Thursday.

Sebastian Aho and Jordan Staal each scored two goals, Seth Jarvis and Andrei Svechnikov each had two assists, and Antti Raanta made 18 saves for the Hurricanes (46-17-8), who have qualified for the postseason in each of their four seasons under coach Rod Brind’Amour.

“It’s a huge accomplishment,” Brind’Amour said. “We grinded all year. We know there’s bigger and better things we want to accomplish, but you have to get there first. I give these guys a ton of credit. They play their butts off every night. It doesn’t always work out , but they’re a pretty committed group. “

Video: BUF @ CAR: Aho buries Svechnikov’s pass from behind net

Prior to hiring Brind’Amour, Carolina had failed to make the playoffs in nine consecutive seasons.

“That’s what we wanted to accomplish since Day One of four years ago,” Brind’Amour said. “It wasn’t just to have a good team here and there, it was to be good for a long time and give this area a team to be proud of.

“I can remember four years ago when we got in, it felt awesome. But now the fact that we’re just expected to do this, that’s a huge shift in how we all perceive us.”

Tage Thompson and Alex Tuch each had a goal and an assist, and Jeff Skinner had two assists for the Sabers (26-35-11). Craig Anderson made 27 saves.

“We got one of their best games effort-wise, and it’s a game our guys can actually learn from,” Buffalo coach Don Granato said. “The nice thing with us is we’re watching our guys get better every day. The mistakes right now are experience.”

Teuvo Teravainen cut it to 3-2 at 16:32 of the second period when he gloved down Cody Eakin‘s clearing attempt and scored from near the right hash marks.

Staal tied it 3-3 at 5:12 of the third period, receiving a pass from Brett Fish and shooting glove side from the high slot.

“You hope when you have that kind of time and opportunity it’s going to go in. I’m glad I got if off quick,” Staal said. “We hadn’t fully played and committed to our game, but that third period was exactly how we wanted it to look.”

Video: BUF @ CAR: Staal knots it up in 3rd period on line rush

Aho put the Hurricanes in front 4-3 at 11:39 with a backhand after he kicked himself the puck following a feed from behind the net by Svechnikov.

Staal then scored an empty-net goal with 55 seconds remaining for the 5-3 final.

“We’re very proud that we’re heading to the playoffs, but at the same time, just put your head down and go to work,” Aho said. “We still have (11) games, and we want to do it our way and keep building toward the playoffs.”

Thompson gave the Sabers a 1-0 lead at 3:49 of the first period. Skinner made a no-look, behind-the-back pass along the right boards to Thompson, who beat Raanta short side.

Buffalo extended the lead to 2-0 at 6:25 when Skinner chipped the puck toward Tuch for a redirect as he was cutting across the crease.

“When you’re on the road and you get a couple quick goals, obviously it’s a good feeling,” Skinner said. “But I think we had more chances. We had some chances on the power play we would like to capitalize on.”

Aho scored off a cross-ice pass from Svechnikov to make it 2-1 at 4:59 of the second.

“‘Svech’ can do it all,” Aho said. “He’s more of a power forward, skates super well, shoots hard, hits everyone, (but) he actually has very good hands and good vision as well.”

Video: BUF @ CAR: Aho snaps Svechnikov’s feed far side

Victor Olofsson responded 30 seconds later to make it 3-1. Casey Mittelstadt won a battle along the boards and fed Olofsson, who deked Raanta before sliding a backhand five-hole.

NOTEBOOK: Skinner has 10 points (six goals, four assists) in seven games against his former team. … The Hurricanes reached 100 points for the second time in their history. The finished with 112 points in 2005-06, when they won the Stanley Cup. … Staal went 10-for-10 on face-offs. Anta Raanta is 6-1-3 in his past 10 starts. Ech Svechnikov has 62 points (27 goals, 35 assists) this season, an NHL career high. Ind Brind’Amour is the third active NHL coach to be a part of a 100-point season with the same team as a player and coach, joining Lindy Ruff (Buffalo) and Darryl Sutter (Chicago Blackhawks).

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