For the first time this season, the Buffalo Sabres skated off home ice with a victory in hand.
Ryan Miller stole the show with 43 saves as the Sabres defeated the Los Angeles Kings 3-2 in the shootout on Tuesday at First Niagara Center. In the shootout, Miller was perfect and Matt Moulson and Tyler Ennis both scored.
Cody Hodgson scored twice in regulation, his fifth-career two-goal game. Justin Williams and Dwight King scored for Los Angeles.
Miller now owns sole possession of the NHL record for most career shootout victories with 46.
The Sabres were coming off a 6-2 road loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Friday. In that game, Miller was pulled after the second period and Hodgson, Moulson and Ennis were benched for the final 26:11.
All four had a hand in the Sabres victory against the Kings. Miller’s effort Tuesday night was not lost on Sabres coach Ron Rolston.
“He gave us an opportunity to be in that game so it was a great bounce back game from him,” Rolston said.
The Sabres penalty kill was strong, especially late in the game. While holding a 2-1 lead midway through the third period, Buffalo weathered a Kings power play in which Miller made five saves and saw another ring off the post. The Sabres also killed off two penalties in overtime.
“We stepped up to the plate and did what we needed to do,” Sabres defenseman Mark Pysyk said. “We don’t want to be taking that many penalties, but that’s the way it went. We did a good job.”
The Sabres had given up a pair of power play goals in each of their past two games, but killed off all five of the Kings’ chances on Tuesday.
“We had some huge blocks in those situations, too, guys sacrificing,” Rolston said. “A lot of guys like Steve Ott had a lot of minutes in that situation, especially with him taking a lot of the face offs. Brian Flynn had some big blocks in those situations so that was huge for us and obviously [Miller] being able to do what he did tonight.”
Miller and Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, both hopefuls for the U.S. Olympic Hockey team, faced off in goal. Miller was certainly the busier goalie during the game. Quick stopped 15 of 17 shots before leaving the game with 1:20 remaining in overtime with an apparent injury. Ben Scrivens stepped in and did not face a shot until the shootout.
After the game, Miller said his focus right now is on winning games for the Sabres and not necessarily on making Team USA.
“There’s still a fair amount of hockey left on that,” he said. “Hopefully they’re just looking at the way you’re playing and –I don’t know – again, it’s not really about making the team right now for me. For me, it was about coming off the Anaheim [game] and making a statement that I’m going to be a pro and rebound with these guys and help give them a chance to win. They gave me a chance by putting some goals in there and finishing in the shootout.”
Los Angeles took the lead 1:17 into the game on a shot that changed directions twice. Slava Voynov’s shot from the point went off Williams and then off Sabres defenseman Mark Pysyk in front of the net to beat Miller.
At the end of the first, Los Angeles had taken 15 shots to Buffalo’s four.
Buffalo tied the game with 7:14 to play in the second. On a rush up ice, Sabres captain Steve Ott fed a pass from the left wing over to Hodgson, who redirected it in. It was Cody Hodgson's sixth goal of the season and first career goal against Kings. He has 14 points (6+8) in the past 18 games.
By the end of the second, the Kings had outshot the Sabres 30-7. Shot attempts favored the Kings as well, by a 48-16 margin.
Hodgson scored again 4:26 into the third period on the power play. He now has seven goals on the season.
“It felt great,” Hodgson said. “Obviously to win a game like that when you’re outshot bad and outplayed, but when you have one of the best goalies in the world, that’s what happens. It feels awesome just to get that extra point but I thought [Miller] played awesome.”
Rolston was also impressed with Hodgson’s play in particular.
“He was outstanding tonight for us. Big in all areas,” Rolston said. “I thought he did a good job against their best players defensively and obviously he got two goals driving it to the net, both of them hard net drives.”
Los Angeles tied it with 3:34 to play in regulation on a rebound that King cashed in on.
However, the Sabres were able to battle through those penalty situations and take the game to the shootout against a cold goaltender.
“As long as you have a chance, we have to learn we have to be in those guys. You have a chance late in the second, third period, you have to find a way,” Miller said. “I thought we had good energy in the third period and I was happy to see that.”
Also of note, Sabres broadcaster Rick Jenanneret called the game from between the two benches due to a malfunction with the elevator to the press box. Standing next to analyst Rob Ray, he wore a helmet and face shield throughout the game.
The broadcasting duo had a close call early in the second period when Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen checked Jordan Nolan into the boards at the red line in front of them and nearly took Jeanneret out. Jeanneret ducked and didn’t miss a beat.