NEW YORK – The Buffalo Sabres closed the book on the month of October on Thursday and may not want to look back.
Derick Brassard and Chris Kreider scored for the New York Rangers as they defeated the Sabres 2-0 at Madison Square Garden. Henrik Lundqvist made 29 saves to earn the shutout. It’s the third time the Sabres have been blanked this season. The Sabres went 2-12-1 in October with just one win coming in regulation.
Ryan Miller put in another stellar performance in goal for the Sabres, stopping 44 shots, tying a season high. He previously made 44 saves in the team’s 1-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Oct. 4.
To Miller, hard work is a key component to turning things around.
“When we want this to stop, it’ll stop. It’s plain and simple. I don’t know, it’s not that we want this to continue, it’s just that everyone has to increase their intensity to find what we have to do,” he said. “It’s when everyone wants this to stop, it’ll stop. It’s how bad streaks end. Do the simple things and you work your way out of it.
“That’s what I’ve been taught, what I’ve been told and what I’ve experienced. When things aren’t going your way, you work as hard as possible and you simplify and usually they start to work themselves out.”
Sabres captain Steve Ott said playing better hockey starts with the attitude each player has when he comes to the rink. The players held a closed-door meeting after the game that lasted about 12 minutes. Ott said they discussed that playing in the NHL is a great privilege, not a right.
“It’s a mindset. Can’t get numb to losing. It’s not acceptable the way we’re playing by any means,” Ott said. “We had a good chat here and a lot of guys realize what a privilege it is to play in the NHL and it goes [for] everybody.”
The Rangers held the puck in Buffalo’s zone for much of the first period and outshot the Sabres 19-6 in that opening frame. Miller had to be sharp on a number of plays, including a stop on a wrap-around attempt by Mats Zuccarello. New York skated into the dressing room with a 1-0 lead thanks to Brassard’s tally on the power play.
New York made it a 2-0 game when Kreider put in a rebound off a Zuccarello shot. Miller kicked Zuccarello’s attempt to the side with his right pad, but Kreider was there to knock it toward the goal. The puck went off Miller’s skate and in.
It was another game of many this season in which, despite a drastic shot differential in favor of the opponent, Buffalo’s goaltending was able to keep them in it. Miller had made 36 saves by the end of the second period.
“I thought he played outstanding for us,” Sabres coach Ron Rolston said. “Gave us an opportunity again.”
It was the third time Miller’s made at least 40 saves in a game this season. He had made 44 saves in that 1-0 loss to Ottawa and then on Oct. 15, he stopped 41 shots in a 4-3 shootout victory on the road against the New York Islanders.
Rookie left wing Zemgus Girgensons said that players need to do more to support each other and work toward one goal.
“I think [it starts with] everyone looking in the mirror and understanding how deep in [s---] we are right now. It’s just getting that fire back and trusting the guys next to you because I just feel like you should not care about who gets credit for your work on the team. Then I think that’s when we’re going to start succeeding,” he said.
“You have to help the other guys work their way up and it’s just when you keep playing like this, not helping each other, then we’re going to die individually. We’re going to stop being hockey players. No one will want players like that.”
Miller said the players need to right the ship quickly.
“It’s on us to dig out of this and start having the right attitude and the right approach and not spend a lot of games searching, trying to figure it out,” he said. “Enough’s enough.”
Lineup changes are on the way as Rolston indicated that forward Corey Tropp should be able to play in the team’s next game on Saturday against the Anaheim Ducks. Tropp has been sidelined with a broken jaw since Sept. 22. Right wing Patrick Kaleta is also eligible to return, having served his 10-game suspension by the League.
How some players performed on Thursday will certainly play into what decisions the coaching staff ends up making.
“We’ll have to have to look at it and make decisions from that and see where we want to move forward because I know Corey Tropp will compete,” Rolston said. “So from there we’ll make decisions on that.”