Tired as he felt, Hurricanes forward Teuvo Teravainen wasn't going to pass up a chance to score on a breakaway in overtime.
Gathering a loose puck at the right boards in his own end after Buffalo's Jack Eichel shot high and wide of the Carolina net, Teravainen scored 3:25 into the extra period to seal a 6-5 victory over the Sabres on Thursday night.
"I saw Faulker there, but then I saw he wasn't there anymore," Teravainen said, referring to trailing teammate Justin Faulk. "So I figured I'd go myself and try something."
Driving in from the right wing, Teravainen faked right before going across the crease and wrapping the puck around Linus Ullmark into the open left side.
It was Teravainen's second goal and sealed a game that finished at a frantic pace. Both teams combined for six goals in the third period, capped by Buffalo's Jeff Skinner scoring with 56 seconds left to force overtime.
Eichel blamed himself for how the game ended in a showdown of the Eastern Conference's ninth-place teams.
"Got to hit the net," Eichel said. "Can't miss the net there. That one's on me."
The Hurricanes improved to 12-4-1 in their past 17 games in a turnaround that has had them jump from a tie for 15th in the East to gaining sole possession of ninth. Carolina (27-21-6) upped its total to 60 points and moving one ahead of Buffalo.
Both teams began the day three points behind Columbus, which holds the conference's second and final wild-card spot.
Faulk, Brock McGinn, Greg McKegg and Nino Niederreiter also scored in a game during which the Hurricanes squandered 2-0 and 5-3 leads, but never trailed.
"I thought we started really well, the first 10 minutes, and for whatever reason we took a breath," Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "We thought we could kind of just cruise through it."
What impressed Brind'Amour was how the Hurricanes refused to back down.
"I love this group. I've been saying it all year. They've been kicked down a lot. We've had a lot of bad things happen. And they just keep bouncing back," he said. "We let them back in and that could've easily been a time to look the other way. But they found a way."
Curtis McElhinney stopped 34 shots in his second consecutive start, and after a 23-save outing in a 4-0 win at Pittsburgh.
The Sabres continue a spiral in dropping to 9-14-5 since they had a franchise-record-matching 10-game winning streak end in November. Buffalo was coming off a 5-4 shootout win over Minnesota on Tuesday and failed to win consecutive games for the first time since Dec. 11-13.
Jason Pominville, Evan Rodrigues and Marco Scandella also scored for Buffalo. Linus Ullmark finished with 33 saves, while allowing four goals on 14 shots in the third period and overtime.
Buffalo's defense has unraveled in having surrendered 17 goals in its past three games, including a 7-3 loss to Chicago on Friday.
"That's Jason's job," coach Phil Housley said referring to general manager Jason Botterill, when asked to evaluate whether the Sabres need help on defense.
What bothered Housley is how Carolina scored all six goals from within 10 feet of the net.
"It's a choice you've got to make, protecting your own net, having respect for it," Housley said. "We've got to be tougher to play against."
The Hurricanes blew a pair of two-goal leads, including a 5-3 edge by allowing the Sabres to score twice in the final 4:19.
Scandella converted Sam Reinhart's cross-ice pass into the right circle, by snapping a shot over McElhinney's outstretched glove as the goalie made a lunging attempt to get across his crease.
Then, with Buffalo's net empty for an extra attacker, Skinner scored his second goal to tie the game with 56 seconds left. Reinhart set that one up, too, by driving up the right wing and threading a pass through the middle to a wide-open Skinner, who sneaked a shot in off the bottom of McElhinney's blocker.
Skinner, who was traded by Carolina to Buffalo in August, also tied the game at 3 earlier in the period by outmuscling Faulk and scoring on a partial breakaway.
NOTES: The Hurricanes' 60 points through 54 games is their most since their Stanley Cup-winning season in 2005-06, when they had 80 over the same span. ... Sabres LW Johan Larsson returned after missing two games with an upper-body injury. ... The game featured teams with the NHL's longest active playoff droughts. The Sabres haven't made the postseason since 2011. The Hurricanes' drought dates to 2009. ... Sabres D Zach Bogosian played his 600th career game. ... Pominville's goal was his 512th point with the Sabres, moving him into eighth on the franchise list, one ahead of Mike Foligno.
Hurricanes: Continue five-game road trip at New York Rangers on Friday night.
Sabres: Continue seven-game homestand against Detroit Red Wings on Saturday afternoon.