NEWARK, NJ – After Monday’s practice in Buffalo, Lindy Ruff explained exactly what he thought it would take to end the team’s losing streak: a low-scoring game in which one of his goalies would steal the show and be selected as the first star.
Maybe we should ask if he knows the Powerball numbers too?
Ryan Miller made 27 saves, including three of the highlight-reel variety in overtime, and Nathan Gerbe scored the game-deciding goal as the Buffalo Sabres defeated the New Jersey Devils 2-1 in a shootout at the Prudential Center on Tuesday. The loss snapped a 12-game road losing streak that started with an 8-3 loss December 17 in Pittsburgh, and broke a five-game losing streak that dates back to January 14 in Long Island.
The Sabres were only able to manage 14 shots on goal in the game, matching their season-low set on December 3 in Nashville. Ironically, that was also the date of Buffalo’s last win on the road.
The hooting and hollering could be heard on the ice after Gerbe’s goal, and continued later on in the dressing room. This wasn’t just a monkey coming off their collective backs; it was an entire zoo.
“It’s been a tough run, everybody knows that,” said head coach Lindy Ruff. “I think every player felt it. And I think everybody around the team has felt it.”
Ruff praised the work of Miller, especially his save in overtime on Ilya Kovalchuk.
“That save was … I mean … those are the type of saves that turn it around for you. Typically, you get out of these (slumps) with a 1-0 or 2-1 game, and that’s what happened.”
Miller, who was named the first star tonight, thinks this was a positive step moving forward for the entire team.
“We finally got our breakthrough there. The guys did play a responsible game,” Miller explained. “I think we’ll start to see more chances as we start to get a better grip on the way we need to play. We’ll get a little more offense and the chances will start to even out.”
Many of the 13,735 in attendance were probably bored at times by the lack of offense on both sides, but Jordan Leopold said that not all wins have to be pretty.
“It wasn’t our best performance by any means, but it ended being good enough to win,” said Leopold. “Millsy made some big saves out there and that was huge; big for his confidence too. I don’t think he’s been playing the kind of hockey he’s wanted to all year, along with a lot of us. Hopefully that’s just a hump and a hurdle, then we can take five days off and take off from here.”
Buffalo scored the only goal in the opening period thanks to a strange bounce. Nathan Gerbe's slapshot from the left wing went over the net and hit the glass behind Martin Brodeur. The puck came straight out to Jordan Leopold all alone in front, and he scored his eighth and easiest goal of the year at 16:34. Both teams took just six shots each in a very quick period that also featured an early stretch of 7:07 without a whistle.
The Devils evened the score at 1-1 midway through the second while Derek Roy was in the box serving his second penalty of the period. Kurtis Foster’s shot from the point hit Tyler Myers in the midsection, bounced to Zach Parise and he dished to a wide open Patrik Elias on the right side of the net. New Jersey outshot Buffalo 12-3, with Miller making his best save on a left pad stop against Alexei Ponikarovsky.
Miller stole the show again in the third period and overtime, as the Devils outshot Buffalo by a combined total of 10-5 in the final 25 minutes. Miller made three game-saving stops on Kovalchuk, Adam Henrique and Zach Parise in overtime alone. Buffalo only had a couple of chances to score, with Ville Leino’s shot in the last minute of the third being their best.
HECHT SIDELINED: The team announced before the game that Jochen Hecht has suffered another concussion, following a hit by TJ Oshie in St. Louis on Saturday. Although Hecht participated in yesterday’s practice in Buffalo, and again in today’s morning skate, Ruff said his reactions following today’s activity forced the team to get him immediate attention.
“He wasn’t feeling bad yesterday. Then he came off today and he was a mess. He couldn’t focus, emotionally he was really unstable. He’s in a rough place right now.”
This is the second concussion of the season for Hecht, and the third he’s been diagnosed with in less than a calendar year.
“First and foremost, you worry about his health,” said Ruff. “But to come off and be the way he was, you know there’s something wrong.”
SABRES NOTES: With Hecht out of the lineup, defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani played the left wing on a line with Cody McCormick and Matt Ellis … Christian Ehrhoff played 24:27 after missing the last 11 games with an upper body injury ... Robyn Regehr also returned to the lineup after missing four games with a shoulder injury, skating 18:10 ... Paul Gaustad (upper body) and TJ Brennan (flu) were Buffalo’s scratches … The Sabres are now off until Monday, when they will hold an afternoon practice before leaving for Montreal. Their next game action is a 7:30 p.m. start at the Bell Centre on Tuesday.
1 - 0 BUF
1 - 1 Tie