Game 49: They Won? They Won!

Well, it wasn’t a regulation win, but at least the Sabres finally managed to get two points in the shootout over the Devils, 2-1. More importantly, they snapped their franchise-worse 12-game road losing streak. Nathan Gerbe had the game-winning goal in the sudden-death portion of the shootout.

1st Period: The Sabres looked a step behind the play early on, but Alexei Ponikarovsky was generous to give the Sabres an opportunity to find their legs on the power play after he tripped up Sekera behind the Sabres’ net. As usual though, the New Jersey penalty kill was flawless and killed off the penalty with ease.  Through the first nine minutes, there was only three shots on goal by both teams combined, so there was very little happening offensively. It’s not surprising at all though considering how inept Buffalo has been offensively and the style of hockey New Jersey plays. The Stafford-Leino-Boyes line had a really nice shift around the 11-minute mark that generated some solid pressure, but they ultimately only had one shot on goal during that sequence. Miller made a great save on Kovalchuk off the face-off with a little under seven minutes left in the period.  The Sabres would get a very fortuitous bounce off the stanchion after a shot by Gerbe. Leopold was in deep, followed up on the play, and ended up with the puck on his stick for an easy goal to give them the 1-0 lead with just over three minutes to go in the 1st. The score would stay that way heading into the 2nd.

2nd Period: Unlike the start of the 1st, Buffalo was moving well and pressuring New Jersey early on. The unit of Vanek-Roy-Pominville and Sekera-Myers had particularly good shift about four minutes in that resulted in a few scoring chances. No goals  were scored though. Roy took a penalty around the 13-minute mark of the 2nd to give the Devils their first power play of the game. They actually generated some pretty good chances, but they were turned away by Miller and the Sabres’ PKers. Sekera got hurt blocking a shot during that sequence. Shortly after getting out of the penalty box, Roy got called for boarding Adam Henrique and Patrick Elias would tap in a rebound in front of the net to tie the game up , 1-1. Just before the goal was scored, Myers took a puck in the man-region and was in his own little circle of hell. Fortunately, he would return to the Sabres’ bench and Sekera came back from his injury as well. Other than the big save Miller made on Alexei Ponikarovsk, nothing of note happened from the time the game-tying goal was scored to the end of the 2nd, so we had a 1-1 score at the end of two.

3rd Period: The vibe I got from the start of this period was that both teams weren’t going to take many chances and play for overtime. Not much happened during the first five minutes and what did happen was one-and-done in terms of shots on goal. Buffalo didn’t record a shot on goal until 12:25 of the 3rd. Vanek would have probably scored on the rebound of that shot by Myers if had not been for the Devils’ backchecker poking the puck away at the last moment. New Jersey turned up the heat a bit as the period went on, but Miller was great and kept his team in the game. Their best chance was when Adam Henrique cranked one off the pipe with about 3:30 left in the 3rd.

Overtime: Miller was called upon to make a gigantic save on Ilya Kovalchuk on a 2-on-1 early on in the OT period. Sekera and Miller combined on a great sequence to stop Parise on a scoring chance. This game would go into a shootout Buffalo had no shots on goal in OT.

Shootout: Ilya Kovalchuk would shoot first for New Jersey. He came in fast on Miller, hesitated just a bit and ripped over Miller’s pad for the goal. Vanek shot first for Buffalo and Brodeur stacked the pads on him. Parise went next for the Devils and tried the backhand, but Miller made the save with his glove. Boyes’ shot went high-and-wide on the glove side. Elias had a chance to end it for the Devils. Fortunately, Miller challenged him and saved it. Pominville tied things up by beating Brodeur glove-side. Adam Henrique tried going forehand-backhand, but missed wide to kick off the sudden death portion of the shootout. Gerbe went next and did Pominville’s move, only in reverse and beat Brodeur to give the Sabres two points for the first time in a long time.

Onto the quick-hits.

-Ryan Miller stole this game for Buffalo. He made plenty of great saves in regulation, OT, and the shootout. Meanwhile, his team provided him with one goal on a whopping 14 shots on goal.

-I really don’t have anything nice to say about the forwards tonight.

-As people may have been able to deduce from this game, this team does have a damn good defense when it’s healthy. Couple that with some reliable goaltending and the Sabres will find themselves in every game, which would be a nice change of pace.

-The two Adam’s, Larsson and Henrique are awesome young players.

-As for the one with Adam as his last name, he only played 4:39. Just send him back to Rochester already. What the heck is the point of having him up here?

-Someone repeatedly whack Kevin Sylvester with his mic’ and then take it away from him, permanently. What an embarrassment.