The Buffalo Sabres picked the right night to play their best game of the season.
The Sabres gave coach Lindy Ruff his 500th career victory – all with Buffalo – by shutting out the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night. Ryan Miller made 36 saves, and Thomas Vanek scored his team-leading 16th goal to help Ruff reach the milestone.
"That might be our best all-around effort of the year from a compete standpoint," Ruff said. Ruff became the 16th NHL coach with 500 wins. He and Montreal's Toe Blake are the only members of the 500-win club to get all their wins with one team.
"It means I've had a lot of good players to get to that point," Ruff said. "To get 500 and be with one organization, the organization I grew up playing in, is special."
Buffalo got goals from Luke Adam and Jochen Hecht in the first period and superb goaltending by Miller to sweep the two-game season series from the Sharks, who lost for the second time at home this week as their up-and-down season continues. San Jose has dropped four of six and was booed at times by the frustrated crowd at the Shark Tank.
The Sharks have been blanked three times at home this season, including twice in the past three home games, equaling the number of home shutouts from the past three seasons combined.
The Sharks got off to a sluggish start, and by the time they finally took control of the play they were already trailing 3-0 in the second period.
"You give that goaltender a 3-0 lead, it doesn't matter," coach Todd McLellan said. "The first team that played in the first period was unacceptable. After that, (it was) not a bad effort but way too late."
San Jose put heavy pressure on Miller throughout the middle, but he came up with a big pad save on Benn Ferriero early and then shut down the Sharks on a late power play. He got lots of help from a defense that kept the Sharks from getting position in front of the net.
"There were no real odd-man rushes, no tough chances on their power play," Miller said. "They had a few looks but I had help around me and I could commit to my reads. It turns into a night when our zone was pretty well organized."
Perhaps the most frustrated Shark was Dany Heatley, who had 11 shots on goal and nothing to show for them.
Adam started the scoring at 10:43 of the first period, backhanding the rebound of Cody McCormick's shot past Antero Niittymaki. It became 2-0 at 16:36 when Hecht won a loose
puck along the boards and beat Niittymaki with a wrist shot from the slot. The Sabres used some quick passing to take a 3-0 lead 3:31 into the second period with Dan Boyle in the penalty box for tripping. Jordan Leopold fed Drew Stafford behind the net and Stafford quickly found Vanek in the slot for a one-timer past Niittymaki.
"There were times that we were chasing the puck too much," Boyle said. "We were working hard but not necessarily smart all the time. We made two mistakes on their first goals. Obviously the first one I lost my man for a fraction of a second, that's my fault, I just lost track of my guy for a half-second and then it's in the back of the net. On the second goal, I believe there were two or three guys that were beat off the wall. Those are two mistakes that can be corrected."
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report
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