RALEIGH, N.C. — Two years, two straight season sweeps of the Buffalo Sabres by the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Canes won their sixth straight game over the Sabres, sending Buffalo into the holiday break with a 4-2 loss Saturday in PNC Arena.
The Sabres will sit on a 9-20-7 record for Christmas, as well as their last-place standing in the Eastern Conference. They are 0-5-1 against Carolina the last two years.
Defenseman Justin Faulk scored twice and Teuvo Teravainen added three assists for the Hurricanes, who have won five of their last six games and outshot Buffalo in this one, 38-21. Nathan Beaulieu and Zemgus Girgensons scored for Buffalo while Jack Eichel assisted on both goals.
Fast start: Sebastian Aho gave Carolina the lead after just 33 seconds of play with a quick shot in the slot beating Chad Johnson a few seconds after the Buffalo goalie took a Teravainen drive off the top of the mask. That was the only goal of the first period as Buffalo had an 8-6 edge in shots.
Quick strikes: The Canes also scored in the first minute of Thursday's 4-1 win at Nashville, with Derek Ryan doing the honors. The Aho goal gave them opening-minute tallies in consecutive games for the first time since the franchise moved here from Hartford in 1997. The Whalers last pulled that feat in 1990.
Middle stanza muddle: The Sabres gave up three goals in the second period and were outshot, 18-6, as they were buried in an avalanche of odd-man rushes. They have been outscored, 44-28, in the period this season. The trouble started Saturday when Evander Kane (high sticking) and Johan Larsson (tripping) both took penalties in the first 30 seconds to create a two-man advantage. Jordan Staal converted at 1:53 as Elias Lindholm's pass in front deflected off Staal's skate to put Carolina up, 2-0.
Quick answer: The Sabres cut the deficit in half 51 seconds later as Beaulieu tallied his first goal of the season off a quick feed from Larsson after Eichel rushed up on the play to turn an odd-man rush into a 3-on-1 break. The goal was just the third of the season from the Buffalo defense.
From the blueline: Faulk scored the next two Carolina goals, at 4:35 and 11:16, to put the Canes in control at 4-1. The first came on a 2-on-1 after a bad pinch by Marco Scandella and the second was a laser to the top corner that burned Johnson.
Pulling closer: Girgensons scored at 13:41 on a quick feed from Eichel off a faceoff. It was Girgensons' second goal of the season — and first in 25 games since scoring Oct. 14 at Los Angeles.
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) December 24, 2017
In the net: Johnson made 34 saves but fell to 1-6-3 on the season, continuing his major struggles to get a victory after he won 22 games for the Sabres in 2015-16 and 18 for Calgary last year. Meanwhile, Carolina veteran Cam Ward improved to 8-2-1 and is 7-0-1 in his last eight starts as he seems poised to wrest the starter's role back from Scott Darling.
Back-to-back issues: The Sabres fell to 2-5-2 in the second set of back-to-back games this season, and are 3-6-0 in the front half. They have not grabbed more than two points in any of their nine sets so far.
Wowie: The game was played on the 28th anniversary of a five-point game by Sabres coach Phil Housley. On Dec. 23, 1989, Housley had a goal and four assists in a 6-5 win over the Quebec Nordiques. The five points are tied with John van Boxmeer for the most in one game by a Buffalo defenseman.
Busy slate: There were 15 games on the NHL schedule Saturday, the final day of play before the league's three-day holiday break. Calgary was the only one of the NHL's 31 teams that did not play.
Up Next: The Sabres take the NHL's mandated Christmas break, which means no games or practices. They'll fly to New York on Wednesday and head right to Barclays Center in Brooklyn for a morning skate prior to the game against the New York Islanders Wednesday night. The Sabres stay in the New York area all week, playing Friday in New Jersey and then staging the Winter Classic with the New York Rangers Jan. 1 in Citi Field.