Sekera helps Hurricanes beat his former team

By By The Sports Xchange
POSTED: 8:13 PM PST January 23, 2014    UPDATED: 8:13 PM PST January 23, 2014 

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Defenseman Andrej Sekera enjoyed his time with the Buffalo Sabres and did not want to stir the pot after his winning goal capped the Carolina Hurricanes' 5-3 comeback victory over his former team on Thursday night.

So his coach bragged for him.

"It's very possible he could be our MVP so far this year," Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said. "From day one 'til now, he's been our most consistent player and he's had a very, very good year so far. We're really pleased with him."

Sekera was dealt from Buffalo to Carolina during the offseason in exchange for defenseman Jamie McBain and a second-round pick. He was booed heartily after receiving flak for a preseason comment about preferring the weather of his new NHL home to Buffalo's winter.

"I guess somebody wants to have five minutes of fame on Twitter or whatever, get some more hits," said Sekera, who had a goal and two assists in the win.

"All I meant is that every city is better than Buffalo is weather-wise, not living-wise. I spent seven years here, so I won't be burying any people in the organization or something like that."

Right winger Alexander Semin scored twice and left wingers Jeff Skinner and Jiri Tlusty also scored as the Hurricanes came back from one-goal deficits three times for the win.

Center Cody Hodgson, right winger Brian Flynn and left winger Tyler Ennis scored for Buffalo, which dropped its fifth game in a row despite Carolina playing on back-to-back nights and the Sabres off since Tuesday.

"They should've been tired," Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said. "We should've been fresher."

The game began with a wide-open first period that featured 25 shots on goal, and the Sabres tested Hurricanes goaltender Anton Khudobin inside of the first minute. Defenseman Mike Weber's slap shot provided a point-blank rebound for center Zemgus Girgensons, but Khudobin parried the shot wide of the goal.

Buffalo opened the scoring 10:15 into the first period when Hodgson picked up a turnover by Hurricanes defenseman Jay Harrison turnover and took three strides into the right of the Carolina zone before sending a slap shot past Khudobin for his 11th goal of the season.

Carolina evened the score at 12:28 when Skinner spun around in the faceoff circle to the left of Buffalo's Jhonas Enroth and beat the out-of-position goaltender stick side for his 22nd goal of the season.

"He's gifted," Muller said. "He can score some very unique goals. He's hot, he's a natural goal scorer and he's a game breaker kinda guy."

Girgensons had another prime chance with a short-handed breakaway late in the period but was unable to lift the puck over a prone Khudobin.

Buffalo reclaimed the lead after Khudobin lost sight of a backhand shot by center Phil Varone and Flynn dived in front of the goal line to slide the puck into the net.

Varone picked up an assist on the goal in his NHL debut. He admitted to anxiety before the puck dropped.

"Extremely nervous," he said. "I felt like throwing up before the game, but once puck drops it's like most nights no matter where you play."

Semin scored an equalizer with 13:11 gone in the second period when he stick-handled through three Sabres in the neutral zone before putting a wrist shot over Enroth's right shoulder to tie it at 2.

It took just 48 seconds on a third-period play for Buffalo to take its third lead of the night. A wrist shot by right winger Drew Stafford from the right half wall hit the left post and ricocheted to the right half wall, where Ennis promptly fired into the net.

The Hurricanes received a prime opportunity to tie the score when Girgensons picked up a four-minute high-sticking penalty. But Enroth rose to the occasion, in particular on a three-save sequence against defenseman Justin Faulk and center Jordan Staal.

At the 7:25 mark, center Eric Staal won a puck behind the net and fed a charging Semin, who tied the score at 3 with his second goal of the night and 12th of the year.

"Over the last six, seven games here, he's really picked it up," Muller said of Semin. "Semin is shooting the puck more, he's hitting the net, he's on a roll right now and it helps."

Sekera gave Carolina its first lead two minutes later when his slap shot from the point went through traffic and Enroth's legs, putting the Hurricanes up 4-3.

"I saw the opening," Sekera said. "Good things happen when you have traffic in front and somebody's shooting. Goalie cannot see."

Carolina outshot Buffalo 32-29.

NOTES: The game was the first at First Niagara Center for Hurricanes D Andrej Sekera (trade) and C Nathan Gerbe (buyout) since both left Buffalo this summer. ... Carolina entered the game 7-1-2 in its last 10 meetings with Buffalo. ... The Hurricanes won 3-2 on Wednesday night in Philadelphia and are in the midst of five games in seven days. ... Buffalo's 23 shots through two periods were more than their total in 14 games this season. ... The Sabres completed a three-game homestand on Thursday. Four of their next five games are on the road.