NEWARK, N.J. -- The Buffalo Sabres are certainly proving that depth, speed and solid goaltending can lead to great things.
Such was the case on Wednesday when goalie Ryan Miller continued his torrid start while the Sabres received goals from four different players en route to a 4-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils before 14,182 at Prudential Center.
"Did we expect to start the season (7-1-1)?" asked Buffalo Sabres coach Lindy Ruff. "Probably not, but we've had a lot of good things happen and have found ways to win some games. When you get on a roll, good things happen and we've been able to take advantage of situations."
And despite the fact the Devils outhit (32-13) and outshot (32-27) the Sabres, the visitors proved a little more equipped for the stretch run -- outscoring the Devils 2-0 in the third period -- for its third straight victory.
"Early on, they tried to get momentum with their physical play and we took our foot off the gas pedal," said Buffalo forward Jason Pominville, who was playing in his 260th straight game.
"But Ryan (Miller) made some big saves and we were able to stick in there," he continued. "Even though we weren't playing the way we wanted (in the second period), we didn't hand them many opportunities, which is something we've done in the past. We blew a lot of games when we had the lead last year and that's not the sign of a good playoff team. We've done a much better job this season with sticking with the system and relying on the system when we do have that lead and it's paying off."
The Sabres received a goal from fourth-line center Paul Gaustad off a splendid individual effort from Matt Ellis with 10:35 left in the third to open a 3-1 advantage.
"I thought (Ellis) was the first star of the game," Ruff said. "They couldn't take the puck away from him. He made a tremendous play to get that pass to Gaustad by spinning off his man -- that was a big goal."
Contributions throughout the lineup have become a staple of the Sabres this season as nine players have already registered two or more goals. The one constant, however, has been Miller between the pipes.
Following Gaustad's goal, the Sabres penalty-killers denied the Devils on back-to-back power-play opportunities behind Miller, who made 15 of his 31 saves in the final period. The Devils finished 1-for-5 with the man advantage for the game.
"(Miller) played well and we knew he would," Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner said. "We knew we had to get some traffic in front of him and make it hard on him -- we did a so-so job with that. But he's the type of guy you've got to keep him back in his net and we didn't do that and we also didn't put good enough chances on him.
"They have a good team and are off to a good start," Langenbrunner added. "They have four lines they can play in any situation and they're not afraid to play them. And Miller is playing well right now."
On the first of those two third-period power-plays by the Devils, Miller (7-0-1) made three key stops -- two off the stick of Langenbrunner -- while also receiving assistance from the goal post with less than nine minutes remaining. Pominville would close out the scoring on a power-play goal with 2:39 left off a blast from the point to send the New Jersey faithful to the exits.
"We're happy right now; I don't want to give people the idea we're not," Miller said. "We're managing our expectations a little better. We know it's going to be a steady improvement by every team over the course of the season and with this team we have to show improvement and work ethic every night. Our good start is proof that our guys care and want to play hard -- that'll be our key for the rest of the season."
"There are no easy games," he said. "I don't think we're going to dominant anyone. We're just going to have to take advantage of situations and maybe dominant stretches of a game in order to take other teams out of their game."
"Did we expect to start the season (7-1-1)? Probably not, but we've had a lot of good things happen and have found ways to win some games. When you get on a roll, good things happen and we've been able to take advantage of situations." -- Sabres coach Lindy Ruff
New Jersey, a perfect 5-0-0 on the road, travels to Boston to face the Bruins on Thursday. The team is still seeking consistency on home ice, however. The Devils, who had their three-game winning streak snapped, are now 1-4-0 at Prudential Center.
The Devils pulled to within 2-1 just 4:17 into the second when defenseman Andy Greene was Johnny-on-the-spot in the right circle with his team on the power-play. Langenbrunner threw a cross-ice pass that deflected off the stick of Zach Parise (7 shots) in the slot before reaching Greene, who slammed his attempt home.
There was a tense moment for the Sabres with less than two minutes left in the second when Pominville snapped his stick in half on a shot from the point while on the power-play that sprung Langenbrunner and Johnny Oduya in the other direction.
Oduya's shot attempt from the right circle was blocked by the skate of a hustling Pominville, who was without his stick, just in front of Miller.
The Devils got behind the eight-ball just 1:21 into the first when Clarke MacArthur sent a wrist shot from the right circle past Brodeur (23 saves). Less than four minutes later, Buffalo, N.Y. native Tim Kennedy, unchecked in the bottom of right circle, did a spin-o-rama before driving home his first career NHL goal through Brodeur's five-hole. Kennedy has certainly impressed the coaching staff with his feistiness and grit alongside Mike Grier and center Jochen Hecht this season.
"I scored two goals in the preseason but that doesn't count so it's special to get one and I'll remember it forever," Kennedy said. "It's something I can tell my friends and family years from now. I wanted to throw the puck at (Brodeur's) feet because we discussed as a team how he doesn't move as well with his feet. I think I caught him off guard because his feet kind of spread wide open and it went in."
"It was great to see Tim break through like that," said Miller. "He's been going through a lot. He's not getting a lot of respect in the faceoff circle from the linesmen yet, but he's improving and it was nice to see him rewarded for all his hard work."