RALEIGH It didn’t take long for Justin Peters to get settled in.
Recalled Monday by the Carolina Hurricanes from the Charlotte Checkers, Peters was in goal Tuesday against the Buffalo Sabres. Calm in net, he made several high-quality saves as the Canes topped the Sabres 4-3 at PNC Arena for their fourth straight victory.
Peters, 26, was an emergency recall from the Canes’ AHL affiliate after No. 1 goalie Cam Ward was injured in Sunday’s game against Florida and lost for six to eight weeks with a sprained knee. Dan Ellis was expected to be the starter Tuesday, but again was ill and unable to play.
“It was definitely an exciting 24 hours for myself, coming up from Charlotte and then finding out this morning I was playing,” Peters said. “It feels really good to be able to step in and get a win for the team.”
Alexander Semin had a goal and two assists, Jussi Jokinen a goal and assist and Eric Staal three assists as the Canes (13-8-1) finished off a three-game season sweep of the Sabres (9-13-2). Jiri Tlusty continued to find ways to score, redirecting a Staal pass past Sabres goalie Ryan Miller for a 1-0 lead in the first period, and defenseman Joe Corvo scored on a power-play blast in the second.
Semin, who has nine points in the past four games, was named the game’s No. 1 star. But the talk of the locker room was Peters.
Peters had 37 saves in his first NHL win since beating Washington 5-0 on Feb. 20, 2012. None was better than one in the second period that robbed the Sabres’ Thomas Vanek of a goal – Vanek looking at an open net before Peters lunged to his right for a terrific blocker save.
“He played great,” Eric Staal said. “All the guys here are comfortable with Justin. He’s played some good games for us last year and over the years. We knew he was going to compete and battle. That’s what he does. He’s a fun guy to play in front of because he competes so hard.”
For the Canes, who lead the Southeast Division by six points, the game wasn’t without its blemishes. The Sabres, playing their seventh game under interim coach Ron Rolston, scored three times in the third to keep things interesting and Canes fans antsy.
Cory Hodgson scored twice for Buffalo – the second a short-handed goal with 35 seconds left in regulation. T.J. Brennan also had a power-play goal for the Sabres, his shot from the point coming three seconds after a 5-on-3 power play had expired.
“Our first two periods were good and then we got caught in the trap of letting our guard down,” Canes coach Kirk Muller said.
But the Canes responded. Jokinen, moved to Eric Staal’s line during the game, scored 50 seconds after Hodgson’s first goal to push Carolina ahead 3-1. Semin, who had denied on a short-handed rush by Miller in the second period, rifled a wicked shot past Miller for a 4-2 lead with three minutes, 47 seconds left.
“We set the tone and tempo of the game early on,” Staal said. “As we got up by a few they started to be more aggressive. I think we can do a better job in the third period of being smart with the puck and a little tighter in certain areas, but as a whole for 60 minutes it was a good win.”
Staal picked up his 600th career point, all with the Canes, on the Tlusty goal. And Semin, who scored his share of goals in PNC Arena when he played for the Washington Capitals, now has his first one at home with the Canes.
The Hurricanes at some point could feel the effect of losing Ward, a former NHL All-Star and the 2006 Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the Canes won the Stanley Cup. But the Canes have confidence in the duo of Ellis and Peters.
“We’re going to need both our goalies to get us some wins with Cam out a while,” Jokinen said. “But this was a huge confidence boost for him and the team.”