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Miller makes history as Sabres rally past Isles, 4-3

Wednesday, 08.06.2014 / 4:50 AM

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- One had to wonder if Ryan Miller would indeed enjoy a historic night Saturday after surrendering three goals on nine shots in the first 20 minutes.
But his teammates rallied from a 3-1 deficit before Miller went 2-for-2 in the shootout as the Buffalo Sabres pulled out a 4-3 win against the New York Islanders in front of 14,618 at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
With the victory Miller, 31, passed Dominik Hasek and became the winningest goaltender in Sabres history. Miller finished with 35 saves -- he stopped all 29 he faced after the opening period -- to secure his 235th career victory -- all with Buffalo.
"I'm proud of it," said Miller, a fifth-round draft choice (No. 138) in 1999. "It's nice. I'm proud of being a Buffalo Sabre. I was really excited coming here as a young player and looking up to Dominik Hasek. I've played with some great teams and some great players. I've had a coaching staff and a support staff that's had my back for a number of years. It's nice, and there's a source of pride from that."
Lindy Ruff, who has been Miller's coach since the latter entered the NHL during the 2002-03 season, was awfully proud to see his goaltender make history Saturday night.
"It was nice to see," Ruff said. "He's had a tough run, but he battled back tonight. I thought a couple of goals that we probably don't like, but I thought for him to battle back and shut them down the rest of the game and shut down the first two shooters in the shootout and win in that fashion … it's a great game to set the mark with."
Meanwhile, it was a highly frustrating loss for the Isles (21-22-8), who failed to pull back to the .500 mark for the first time since November and may have lost defenseman Travis Hamonic in the process. Hamonic left the game in the third period and headed for a local hospital after being struck by a Christian Ehrhoff slap shot.
The Islanders -- who have now lost six times this season when leading by multiple goals -- will visit Philadelphia on Tuesday night.
"It's a game we should have had," New York coach Jack Capuano said. "We're in a situation now where we can't let points slip away. It's a little disappointing for us tonight because we had a two-goal lead in our building."
Buffalo (22-24-6) managed to rally from the aforementioned two-goal deficit without the services of Thomas Vanek, who was out with an upper-body injury. The Sabres also found a way to keep their composure after outplaying the Isles in the opening period, only to find themselves down by a pair of goals at the intermission.
The Sabres begin a four-game homestand and a stretch of eight of nine at First Niagara Center on Wednesday against the Boston Bruins.
"We could have a couple more in the third, and it didn't go our way," said Sabres forward Derek Roy, who made it a 3-2 game late in the second period.
The Islanders needed just 1:39 to get on the scoreboard, as Frans Nielsen potted his eighth goal of the season. With the teams at even strength, Sabres defenseman Mike Weber coughed up the puck behind the net to Michael Grabner, and the latter quickly sent a feed in front to Nielsen for a one-timer. It was Nielsen's first goal since Jan. 7 and the second time in their last four games that the Isles scored on their first shot.
But Buffalo capitalized on a turnover less than four minutes later to tie the game. Drew Stafford collected the puck from Isles defenseman Mark Eaton during a bad line change near New York's blue line and found Nathan Gerbe off the left wing, and the latter fired a wrister from the circle that hit Al Montoya (34 saves) before floating into the net to make it 1-1. It was Gerbe's fifth goal of the season.
The Isles bounced back later in the first with a pair of goals in a span of 1:17. Josh Bailey put New York back in front with his sixth of the season just as a high-sticking penalty to Nino Niederreiter expired, as he roofed his own rebound over Miller to make it 2-1. Nielsen then quickly doubled the Isles' lead when he collected a loose puck in the slot and one-timed a snap shot past Miller for his second goal and third point of the night.
Remarkably, the Islanders took the 3-1 lead into the first intermission despite being outshot 17-9.
"We made three stupid mistakes is what we did," Ruff said. "Stupid mistakes that could have ended up costing us the game. The challenge after that was to dig in even harder."
Buffalo cut the deficit in half with just 1:19 remaining in the second period on Roy's 10th goal of the season. With the teams at even strength, Roy took a pass from Ville Leino and fired a lot shot from between the circles past Montoya to make it 3-2.
"After all those posts and struggling scoring, it's nice to score and bring the team back in the game," said Roy, who hadn't scored since Jan. 14, also against the Islanders. "That was a big goal for us."
The Isles played a large chunk of the third period without Hamonic, who took a slap shot from Ehrhoff in the face with 14:39 remaining. Hamonic needed help getting to the dressing room, leaving a trail of blood in his path.
Hamonic's absence was clearly evident, as the Isles were badly outplayed for much of the third period. Gaustad tied it for the Sabres with 8:14 to go, as he wristed a shot from the slot past Montoya to make it 3-3. It was his sixth goal of the season.
"I was just trying to get it off as quick as possible," Gaustad said. "I think when I take a look, I don't score. I just close my eyes and shoot."
The Isles were handed a glorious opportunity to win it overtime, as the Sabres were whistled for having too many men on the ice with 2:32 remaining. But New York came up empty in the 4-on-3 situation and the game went to a shootout.
"Every point's crucial, especially the next 3-4 weeks," Isles captain Mark Streit said. "We had it in our hands. One or two points can make a difference at the end of the season. It was certainly a lost point tonight for us."
"We've got to take advantage of those opportunities," Capuano added.
After Miller denied PA Parenteau in the opening round of the shootout, Brad Boyes quickly gave the Sabres the edge as he beat Montoya with a wrister. Nielsen then backhanded a shot wide, and Jason Pominville clinched No. 235 for Miller in Round 2 with a snap shot.
"I think it's tremendous," Gaustad said of Miller's record-breaking victory. "I think it just shows how good of a goaltender he is. He's a tremendous goaltender -- the best I've ever played with and one of the best in the world."  
Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL
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