VANCOUVER, BC – It had been more than 13 years since the Buffalo Sabres won a game in Vancouver, and they wasted no time in putting an end to that drought. The timing couldn’t have been any better.
The Sabres scored three goals on their first seven shots, including a pair from Ville Leino, to topple the NHL’s best team by a score of 5-3 on Saturday. Ryan Miller had his shutout streak ended at 155:37, but ran his record to 6-0-1 in his last seven starts. The win was Buffalo’s third in a row on their western road trip, and extended their season-high point streak to eight games at 6-0-2.
The win gives Buffalo 68 points (30-27-8), and moves them to within two of the eighth-place Winnipeg Jets. Buffalo will look to add to their eight-game point streak and gain some more ground on Monday when they head to Winnipeg for a crucial matchup with the Jets at the MTS Centre.
The Sabres arrived in Vancouver with a record of 0-5-1 in their last six games against the Canucks, not having won in British Columbia since Feb. 28, 1999. The six games were the most they had gone without a road win against any team in the NHL.
It didn’t take long to start tearing that record apart.
Leino scored twice in 2:49 to stake the Sabres to an early 2-0 lead, and then Brad Boyes lit the lamp at 5:10 with a goal that had to be confirmed by review. The three goals chased Canucks starter Roberto Luongo, bringing a quick end to the rematch of the two goaltenders from the 2010 Olympics gold medal game. Cory Schneider took over for Luongo and gave up one goal in 46:09 of action. Christian Ehrhoff and Tyler Ennis (into an empty net) rounded out the Buffalo scoring.
For Leino it was his first multi-goal game of the season and fourth of his career. It’s been a frustrating season for Leino, who came into the game only having scored four goals – and just one in his last 15 games. The fist pump that punctuated his first goal was a definite sign of relief.
“Yeah, it’s been a while,” said Leino with a smile. “I felt like I’ve been playing pretty good out there, but obviously if you don’t score it’s not the same thing. It’s good to score and we’ll try to keep things rolling here.”
The three early goals were huge for Buffalo considering the Canucks’ success in the opening period this season. Vancouver came into the game having allowed just 36 first period goals in their previous 65 games - the third-lowest total in the NHL. It was just the fifth time this season the Canucks had allowed more than one goal in the first, and only the second time they've allowed three.
But even with the early three-goal cushion, head coach Lindy Ruff wasn’t about to let his team sit back on their heels in a defensive shell for the next 40 minutes. The early goaltending change seemed to give Vancouver some momentum, and they eventually got to within one goal late when ex-Sabre Zack Kassian made it 4-3 with 2:46 left on the clock. Ennis’ empty netter with 63 ticks remaining sealed the win for Buffalo.
“I knew we were going to get some pushback, they’re a good team,” said Ruff. “You don’t feel comfortable playing a team like that even when you’re up three. They’ve got firepower; you know they can score goals. And I like Schneider. I think he’s a good goaltender. We knew we still had our hands full for the rest of the game.”
The Sabres got into penalty trouble in the second period and it ended up costing Miller his shutout streak. Just as the time had ticked off Alexander Sulzer’s high-sticking penalty, David Booth became the first player in more than a week to score on Miller when his snap shot from the low slot eluded the Sabres goaltender. The goal was the first scored on Miller since Ryan Callahan’s overtime winner last Saturday in New York, snapping his streak at an impressive 155:37.
1-0: Kaleta feeds Leino from the halfwall, and he one-times a shot between Luongo's legs. (:55)… 2-0: With the puck pinballing all over the Canucks zone, Leino finds the open net behind a stickless Luongo. (3:44)… 3-0: Brad Boyes belatedly gets credit for his top corner snipe after a review. (5:10) … Shots: VAN-12, BUF-11
3-1: Booth gets Vancouver on the board with a shot from the low slot… Shots: VAN-13, BUF-6
4-1: Christian Ehrhoff's point shot changes direction off Rome's skate in front to pad Buffalo's lead. (2:36)… 4-2: Booth jumps on the rebound and backhands a shot past Miller. (3:43)… 4-3: Zack Kassian beats Miller over the blocker to get the Canucks within one. (17:14)… 5-3: Tyler Ennis closes out the scoring with an empty netter (18:57)… Shots: VAN-10, BUF-8
SABRES NOTES: The win improved Buffalo’s record to 21-0-2 when leading after two periods… Robyn Regehr (lower body), Cody McCormick (upper body) and Marcus Foligno were Buffalo’s scratches… Regehr was injured late in the second period in San Jose on Thursday, and is listed as day-to-day… Foligno was recalled earlier in the day from Rochester... McCormick has now missed eight games after being injured against Dallas on February 10.