Just like Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal exchanging volleys in last weekend’s epic Australian Open tennis final, Ryan Miller and Henrik Lundqvist traded saves all night long. And just like Djokovic and Nadal, only one man could leave the building a winner. Unfortunately for Miller, he was on the wrong end of this goaltending duel.
Ryan Callahan’s goal in the fifth round of the shootout turned out to be the game deciding goal as the New York Rangers defeated the Buffalo Sabres 1-0 at First Niagara Center on Wednesday. The Rangers outscored Buffalo 2-1 in the shootout, with All-Stars Jason Pominville and Marian Gaborik being the only other players to score on their attempts.
Lundqvist stopped all 34 Sabres shots that were sent his way, and Miller denied all of New York’s 29 shots. With both goalies receiving credit for a shutout, Lundqvist now has six and Miller moves to two.
It marked the 24th time in league history that a scoreless game went to a shootout, and just the second time in Sabres history. Miller was also in net for Buffalo’s only previous 1-0 shootout game, which resulted in a win over Ottawa on December 4, 2010.
“It’s just one of those nights. One more save from me and we score and they're saying the same thing,” said Miller, who now has a shutout streak of 120:51. “Those kind of nights pop up over the course of the season and I don't think we should get the microscope out and start being too negative on ourselves about it because there were a lot of good things tonight. The battle was there. The organization was there. I thought against a team that’s been ranked really highly the entire season, we played really strong defense.”
After a sluggish first 40 minutes, the Sabres went into firewagon mode for the final 25. They had several chances to end it late, including a doorstop save by Lundqvist on Brad Boyes in the third, and a missed opportunity by Derek Roy in overtime.
“It's disappointing, obviously. We played hard. A couple times I thought we had them on the ropes and missed a couple opportunities,” said Lindy Ruff. “I thought our fans in the third period got us going. This building got some life and we played a hell of a third period. Probably the only disappointing part is Derek Roy; he's got to put that one away. Coming close isn't good enough.”
Tyler Ennis was an offensive spark again tonight in his second game back from injury, but he wasn’t able to jumpstart the offense enough to earn the two points in front of Miller’s outstanding effort.
“[Lundqvist] is a great goalie and Millsy played unbelievable too. It was a battle of the goalies tonight and we've got to start putting them in,” explained Ennis, who rang a shot off the post in the shootout. “We really wanted this one for Millsy. He played unbelievable. He’s been playing great as of late and we just have to look forward though. Those pucks gotta go in and they’re going to start going in.”
With their single point tonight, the Sabres now have points in their last eight home games (4-0-4). It’s their longest such streak since going 9-0-3 at home from December 9, 2009 to January 29, 2010.
The teams skated through a scoreless first period with the Sabres holding an 11-9 edge in shots. Buffalo only had one shot in the first 12:38 of action. Christian Ehrhoff took four of Buffalo’s shots, while Derek Roy won seven of nine faceoffs. Referee Kelly Sutherland had to leave the game early in the period after taking a puck to the face.
Both teams refused to score for another 20 minutes, with New York leading 10-8 in shots. Ryan Callahan had the best chance less than two minutes in, but he was denied by Ryan Miller’s right pad.
Buffalo buzzed the Rangers net throughout the period, with Boyes hitting the crossbar three minutes in. They had it going again during a stretch midway through the third when Nathan Gerbe and Luke Adam both missed glorious chances. The Sabres had chances to end it late in the third period by Boyes, and again in overtime by Roy.
SABRES NOTES: Thomas Vanek missed the game with an upper body injury suffered Tuesday in Montreal. Ruff said tests today were more positive than the original prognosis, and he thinks it could be no more than a week depending on his pain tolerance … Vanek, Drew Stafford (illness) and Marc-Andre Gragnani (healthy) were Buffalo’s scratches … Zack Kassian was recalled from Rochester earlier in the day. He played 15:11 and recorded four hits along with one shot on goal.