ANAHEIM, Calif. – As the clock struck Midnight in the east, Buffalo’s push for the playoffs officially became a March. And it doesn’t look like they are going to ease up anytime soon.
Ryan Miller turned aside all 43 shots he faced, including 20 in the third period, as the Buffalo Sabres defeated the Anaheim Ducks by a score of 2-0 in front of 14,972 onlookers at the Honda Center. Derek Roy’s first period goal was the game winner, and Brad Boyes added some insurance in the second period with his first goal since December 31.
The Sabres are now 4-0-2 in their past six games, matching a season-high originally set during a 5-0-1 run from January 24-February 10. Wednesday’s victory was also Buffalo’s first on February 29 in 32 years.
The win moved the Sabres to 28-27-8 (64 points), and they are now just five points behind the eighth-place Washington Capitals. Buffalo’s four-game west coast swing continues Thursday as they head north to face the San Jose Sharks.
Anaheim came into the game 9-1-1 in their last 11 at home, and had outscored the opposition 40-27 during that time. Their 38 points (17-6-4) since January 1 are tied with St. Louis, Vancouver and Detroit for the most in the league.
Lindy Ruff said it took a total team effort to shut down a team that has been red hot over the past two months.
“I like the way we played. I like the way the lines played. I thought the line that created the best opportunities was the Hodgson line,” said Ruff. “Staff missed a great one and Cody missed one. I thought they were in on four or five really good opportunities. Those will go. I thought all the lines all looked pretty good together.”
With his wife and several other family members in attendance, Miller gave the Ducks’ shooters fits all night long, saving some of his best saves for their marquee players. He made several big stops on Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, and stoned Saku Koivu on the doorstep while the Ducks were on the power play midway through the third.
Miller has started every game of the current 4-0-2 run, and hasn’t lost in regulation since February 14 against New Jersey. The shutout was his fourth of the season, and third since February 1. He said tonight’s game was just another positive step forward for both the team and himself.
“I felt pretty good. I’m trying really to be calm in the net, and start from in the crease,” he explained. “It helps that we have a lot of great back pressure and our D is able to stand guys up. I don’t feel like I have to challenge the rush plays too much; I can read what’s coming. When I do have to step out and kind of attack, it’s more about one option that I have to commit to, and I’ve been able to be a bit better in the last month or so in those situations.”
Newcomer Cody Hodgson had an impressive first night in the blue and gold. The 22-year-old had 16:04 of ice time, took four shots and won five of eight faceoffs. He also recorded three hits along with one blocked shot and one takeaway. Ruff liked what he saw in the rookie pivot.
“He had good defensive awareness. I didn’t have any issues. I used him on an early penalty kill to give him a look, and I thought he really isn’t up to speed to what we want to do on the one early chance. But I’d like to use him there just to get him a little extra time.”
Hodgson was stymied by Jonas Hiller on his best scoring chance in the second period, and also teamed with his new linemates Drew Stafford and Tyler Ennis to create several good opportunities throughout the night.
“We had a lot of chances, and we should’ve scored on a couple,” said Hodgson. “I know myself personally, I had the two-on-one that Ennis made a great pass on that I should have buried on the breakaway. But I thought we played well.”
This was the first game of Buffalo’s 18th set of back to-back games this season. They head to San Jose with a record of 11-7-0 in the first game, and are 5-7-5 in the second.
Buffalo evened their all-time record to 3-3 in games played on February 29, and won for the first time since a 4-2 victory in Edmonton in 1980. Their first Leap Year win was in 1976, but they lost the last three in 1984, 1992 and 2008.
BUF 1-0: Roy slides in low on the left side, grabs the loose puck after Myers shot caroms off the end boards and sneaks a shot into the net. (7:12)… Shots: ANA-10, BUF-10
2-0: Ehrhoff's point shot is tipped in front by Brad Boyes just as the power play omes to an end. (8:16)… Shots: ANA-13, BUF-10
No scoring … Shots: ANA-20, BUF-4
SABRES NOTES: Roy’s goal gives him nine points (3+6) in the last seven games… Cody McCormick (upper body) and Alexander Sulzer (healthy) were Buffalo’s scratches… McCormick has now missed six games since being injured against Dallas on February 10. He failed a neuropsych test earlier this week, and did not accompany the team on this road trip.