BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- Nearly seven months to the day after being eliminated by Carolina in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, the Buffalo Sabres still have that bitter taste in their mouths.
The Sabres extracted a bit more revenge from their nemesis by sweeping the four-game season series with a 4-1 win over the Hurricanes on Thursday night.
Thomas Vanek scored his 20th goal of the season in the Sabres' victory. Vanek, who scored 25 goals as a rookie last season, is the first Sabres player to reach the 20 mark in both his freshman and sophomore seasons since Ray Sheppard did it in 1987-88 (38 goals) and 1988-89 (22).
Kotalik converted a penalty shot with 42 seconds remaining in the third to make it 4-1 after he was hauled down from behind by Carolina forward Erik Cole.
"Every time we play them we think about it," Pominville said. "We still have that in the back of our minds, but this year is a different year. Hopefully we can make it to that next step."
Buffalo outscored the Hurricanes in the four games by a 19-11 margin, and swept the season series against the defending Stanley Cup champions for the second straight season. The Sabres took all four games last season against the 2003-04 champ Tampa Bay Lightning.
"They're a good team and we want to beat them," said Miller, who had his shutout bid spoiled by Craig Adams' short-handed goal with 1:09 left. "They were on a bit of a roll, so we wanted to come out in our building and establish a good game."
Carolina entered the game with a season-best, five-game winning streak, but were denied in its attempt to secure their sixth consecutive win for the first time since winning seven straight last season.
Buffalo hardly established anything in the first period, managing just a single shot on Carolina goalie John Grahame. But after the sluggish start, the Sabres were the ones rolling, scoring three straight times, including goals just 91 seconds apart by Pominville and Drury.
"We cheated everyone in that first period. It was very disappointing," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "We weren't ready to play."
Grahame finished with 22 saves in his second start in three games, and first against the Sabres this season. Cam Ward had started the three previous games against Buffalo, posting a 4.25 goals-against average in the three losses.
"In the first we did everything we wanted to do," Grahame said. "We knew they would keep coming."
Pominville scored his 17th of the season 1:21 into the second. Grahame stopped Teppo Numminen's slap shot, which was tipped by Daniel Briere, before Jochen Hecht slid the rebound to Pominville, who was standing at the top of the crease. Pominville shoveled the puck into an empty net.
Drury made it 2-0 with his 20th goal, and Vanek pushed Buffalo's lead to 3-0 with his 20th, putting home Jaroslav Spacek's rebound.
"They scored and got a little momentum, then came down and got another one," Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette said. "The chances were even in the second period, yet they grabbed a 3-0 lead."
After that it was up to Miller, who made four solid saves in the third period while Carolina enjoyed the man advantage.
The next time the two teams could meet would be in the playoffs come April. Until then, the Sabres will have to enjoy what they can out of their regular season dominance.
"Revenge or not, they've got a good team," Hurricanes defenseman Mike Commodore said. "They just had our number in the regular season."
The game was the first of a back-to-back set for the Hurricanes against the top two teams in the NHL. Carolina hosts Anaheim on Friday night. ... Drury has 20 or more goals in seven of his eight NHL seasons. Vanek and Drury became the first Sabres players to score 20 goals before January since Dave Andreychuk, Pat LaFontaine and Alexander Mogilny did it in 1992. ... Carolina forward Justin Williams had his career-long, eight-game point streak stopped.
Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press
Arena: First Niagara Center Location: Buffalo, New York
Referees: Kerry Fraser, Ian Walsh Linesmen: David Brisebois, Steve Miller
Attendance: 18,690 (100.0% full)
Team Stat Comparison
Power Play Goals
Power Play Opportunities
Shots on Goal
No scoring this period
Jason Pominville (18)
Assists: Jochen Hecht, Daniel Briere
Chris Drury (20)
Assist: Paul Gaustad
Thomas Vanek (20)
Assists: Jaroslav Spacek, Derek Roy
Craig Adams (6)
(Shorthanded) Assists: Chad LaRose, Rod Brind'Amour
Ales Kotalik (11)
(Power Play) (Penalty Shot) Unassisted