RALEIGH, North Carolina — Bill Peters smiled a lot after his Carolina Hurricanes routed the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night.
That is because the rookie NHL head coach finally had the team he had expected to have on opening night.
Jeff Skinner scored one of Carolina's four goals in the second period, and the Hurricanes beat Buffalo 5-2, sending the Sabres to their sixth straight loss.
Jiri Tlusty had a goal and an assist for the Hurricanes, who have won three of four. Carolina, last in the Eastern Conference, moved within one point of Buffalo.
Tlusty, Eric Staal and Victor Rask scored in a 69-second span late in the second period. Riley Nash added a goal in the third.
"As close as we projected our lineup to be, this is the first time we've actually had everybody with (Alexander Semin) in and with Jordan Staal and everybody else," said Peters, whose team has lost 116 man-games this season.
Alternate captain Jordan Staal has missed 36 games. He returned to action on Dec. 29 after he break a leg in a collision with the Sabres' Josh Gorges in a preseason game on Sept. 23.
John-Michael Liles played after missing five games due to the flu. He completed Peters' desired lineup and had an assist for the Hurricanes. Ryan Murphy and Justin Faulk had two assists apiece.
Philip Varone scored both Buffalo goals in his second game this season.
"It's different mistakes from different people every time," Buffalo coach Ted Nolan said of the second period. "It's not like it's one occurrence. We've got to be mentally sharp. We talked about it before the game.
"We've got to be alert, we've got to make sure we're intense, and we've got to bring some urgency. That didn't happen."
Cam Ward made 18 saves for Carolina, which has gone 10 games without allowing a power-play goal. Buffalo's Jhonas Enroth stopped 26 shots.
"We know there's never an easy game in this league," Ward said. "We know they've been struggling. But we needed to pick up our game after the first period and really dictate.
"It was great to see our guys cash in some goals. Anytime you get five it's a big boost to the confidence."
Buffalo beat Carolina in a shootout on Oct. 14 in the first meeting between the teams this season.
Skinner gave the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead in the rematch at 4:42 of the second with his ninth goal. He received Semin's pass in the left circle and slid a shot past Enroth.
Varone tied it 69 seconds later, beating Ward glove side on a rush.
Carolina took advantage of a 5-on-3 power play later in the period. Tlusty beat Enroth from the doorstep at 13:50, and 53 seconds later — just three seconds after the 5-on-4 power play ended — Staal scored by sending a shot in off defenseman Mike Weber's skate to make it 3-1.
Rask added Carolina's fourth goal of the period at 15:09.
"We had puck control, and offensively were controlling the play," Jordan's older brother and Carolina captain Eric Staal said of the three quick goals. "When you're doing that, you get some penalty calls.
"We were able to capitalize with the big 5-on-3 goal and then follow that right up quickly. That kind of took the wind right out of their sails."
Varone scored his second goal at 8:17 of the third, but Nash made it 5-2 at 10:10.
NOTES: Buffalo will visit Tampa Bay on Friday. Carolina's next game is Saturday at St. Louis. ... The Hurricanes activated C Andrej Nestratil (upper body) from the injured list and sent him to Charlotte (AHL) on a conditioning assignment. LW Zach Boychuk and D Michal Jordan were also sent to Charlotte. LW Chris Terry and D Brett Bellemore were healthy scratches. ... Buffalo captain RW Brian Gionta (upper body) missed his eighth game. D Andre Benoit and D Andrej Meszaros were healthy scratches. ... The teams' final meeting of the season is April 6 at Buffalo.