It wasn’t pretty, but after dropping 12 straight road games, and 5 overall, a win is a win. Despite registering only 14 shots through regulation and overtime, the Buffalo Sabres were victorious 2-1 in a shootout against the New Jersey Devils. The loss was the Devils third straight at home.
Buffalo and New Jersey played a very lackluster opening period, but the Sabres struck first on Broduer with a long overdue ugly goal. Coming down the left wing Nathan Gerbe’s slapshot caromed off the stantion behind the net and the puck popped out in front to a wide open Jordan Leopold. Martin Broduer didn’t see the bounce until it was too late and Leopold tapped in the Sabres lone regulation tally for his 8th goal on the season, only 2 goals back of Shea Weber. Jason Garrison has 13 for the NHL lead by a defensemen.
Both teams came out in the second period with more energy, but as the period wore on the Devils began to take over the game. Derek Roy took back to back penalties midway through the second, and on the latter infraction, a boarding minor, the Devils struck on the power play to tie the game.
With the man advantage Zach Parise found an open Patrik Elias who wristed the puck over a sprawling Miller for his 18th of the season, and the only power-play conversation for either team tonight. On the goal Tyler Myers appeared shaken up after jostling for position with Devils forward David Clarkson in front of the net. Myers remained on the ice for several minutes and appeared to be favoring his abdomen, but he went back to the bench and remained in the game.
The Devils continued to dominate the period and if not for some timely saves by Miller Buffalo could have been down heading into the third. Instead the game was tied 1-1 heading into the final frame, despite the Sabres having been outshot 12-3 in the second period, and 18-9 overall.
The Devils continued to control the puck in the Sabres end throughout the third period and midway through the final frame Jacob Josefson slid a puck past Ryan Miller that appeared to be heading over the goal-line. However before the puck crossed the line, Sabres defenseman Jordan Leopold was able to reach out and slide the puck back under Ryan Miller to keep the game tied.
Moments later Devils rookie Adam Henrique rang a laser beam wrist shot off the left post and despite having been outshot 24-11 through 60 minutes the Sabres managed to get the game to overtime. New Jersey continued the onslaught in the extra stanza with perhaps their best chance coming seconds after the opening face-off when Ilya Kovalchuk came free in front of Miller off a 2 on 1 but Miller deflected Kovy’s shot high and over the glass to help send the contest to a shootout. The Devils struck first on a goal by Kovalchuk, but Miller proceeded to stop the next two New Jersey shooters, Parise and Elias setting up an opportunity for the captain Jason Pominville to tie things up. After nearly losing the puck over the blue line, Jason regained his composure and beat Martin Broduer glove side to extend the shootout. In the next round Miller stoned Adam Henrique and Nathan Gerbe lit the lamp to win the game and end the Sabres franchise road losing streak.
This was a game Buffalo had to win, and although they were outplayed for most of the contest, it was Ryan Miller’s best outing in months. Over the past few seasons they relied on Miller to steal them 2 points on nights where the rest of the team didn’t play their “A” game. Despite the poor season by Ryan thus far, he was vintage Miller tonight, singlehandedly (with some help from Leopold) winning the game for the Sabres.
Another silver lining amidst an otherwise poor performance tonight was the Sabres willingness to get bodies into the New Jersey shooting lanes and block shots. Buffalo had 11 blocked shots tonight, and many of them were on quality scoring opportunities by the Devils.
Buffalo also welcomed back defensemen Christian Ehrhoff and Robyn Regehr tonight. Ehrhoff led all defensemen in ice time with 22:04 and was a +1 on the night. Unfortunately it was learned that Jochen Hecht may have suffered his second concussion in less than a year, he did not dress tonight and is out indefinitely.
The Sabres are now 20-24-5 with 45 points heading into the All Star Break. Their next game is tuesday January 31st in Montreal. They only have one game remaining against the Devils, and that one is at home on Valentines Day, Febuary 14.
Buffalo will send Captain Jason Pominville, and rookie Luke Adam to the All Star festivities in Ottawa this weekend. The rest of the team will take the week off to rest and prepare to start a new streak in Montreal, a winning streak.