Losing the previous three meetings with the Devils this season in shootouts, the Sabres used consecutive goals by Drew Stafford and Henrik Tallinder in tiebreaker No. 4 between the two teams to win 3-2 on Wednesday night.
Stafford beat Martin Brodeur with a wrist shot in the first round of the shootout, and Tallinder followed with a nifty deke. Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller denied Brian Gionta's wrist shot in the second round to give the Sabres their second straight win.
It wasn't unexpected that this game was decided by a shootout. What was surprising was Tallinder's first-ever shootout goal coming against a future Hall of Fame netminder. Tallinder was able to elude Brodeur's poke-check to deliver the win for a surging Sabres team that moved to within two points of idle Boston for the eighth playoff slot in the Eastern Conference.
"(Assistant coach) James Patrick told me yesterday to be ready," Tallinder said. "I got the call, so I'm happy."
Tallinder came in slowly before Brodeur lunged forward with his stick, then calmly moved the puck from his backhand to his forehand, to slide it into the empty net.
"I know what guys usually do, and when you get a defenseman it's usually pretty rare," Brodeur said. "It makes it a little harder when they come on you."
"It was huge for us to get that extra point," Stafford said. "We're desperate for them right now. We stuck with it, and it shows that we're hungry."
The Devils trailed 2-0 midway through the second period, and nearly pulled off another stirring comeback. New Jersey defeated Pittsburgh on Monday in overtime after being down a pair of goals in the third period.
But ultimately, they squandered an opportunity to move into a tie for first-place in the Atlantic Division with Philadelphia, which lost to Washington on Wednesday.
"I didn't think we played that bad," said Brodeur, who finished with 20 saves. "For the most part they didn't get a lot of great chances."
Karel Rachunek and Mike Mottau scored for the Devils, who had their two-game winning streak snapped. New Jersey also lost for the first time in four games on the road.
Miller finished with 24 saves, and hasn't allowed more than two goals in his last six starts.
"They're not all going to be pretty," he said. "I think everybody on the bench knew we needed to get through."
|Sabres goalie Ryan Miller gets beat by the Devils Karel Rachunek, not shown, during the second period. (AP Photo/David Duprey)|
Ryan opened the scoring just 2:30 into the game with his fourth of the season when he deflected Tallinder's slap shot from the left point past Brodeur for a 1-0 Sabres lead.
Pominville pushed Buffalo's edge to 2-0 with his 14th at 8:04 of the second period. Driving to the left post, Pominville redirected Daniel Paille's pass from the boards along the right circle with his left skate. The goal was upheld after a video review.
Rachunek cut the Sabres' lead to 2-1 with his third with 4:35 remaining in the second. From the left circle, Gionta hit a trailing Rachunek with a perfect feed at the top of the right circle. Rachunek deposited the puck into the top-right corner with a wrist shot.
The Devils used a fortunate break to tie it at 2 with 13:44 left in the third period. Mottau's pass from the right circle to John Madden near the crease was inadvertently knocked in off Miller by Buffalo defenseman Dmitri Kalinin, who was trying to swat the pass away.
Notes: The game was New Jersey's only road contest in a 10-game stretch. ... New Jersey C Sergei Brylin played in his 300th straight NHL game. ... Brodeur made his 13th consecutive start. ... The Sabres will play three of their next four at home. ... Devils D Arron Asham missed his second straight game because of a hand injury. ... Buffalo hasn't lost all four games to New Jersey in a season series since 1997-98.
|Michael Ryan (4) ASST: Henrik Tallinder (8), Adam Mair (3)|
1 - 0 BUF
|Jason Pominville (14) ASST: Daniel Paille (14), Jochen Hecht (18)|
2 - 0 BUF
|Karel Rachunek (3) ASST: Brian Gionta (22), John Madden (16)|
2 - 1 BUF
|Mike Mottau (3) ASST: John Madden (17), Jay Pandolfo (6)|
2 - 2 Tie
|1||D. Stafford||Z. Parise||1 - 0|
|2||H. Tallinder||B. Gionta||2 - 0|
|Mike Rupp Roughing against Patrick Kaleta|
|Thomas Vanek Roughing against David Clarkson|
|David Clarkson Interference against Patrick Kaleta|
|Jason Pominville Hooking against Travis Zajac|