"When you don't win for a while, there's always pressure, so it's nice to get that one out of the way. We're one big team, and it was a great team effort."
-- Patrick Lalime
The veteran stopped 39 shots in just his third start of the season, and the Sabres got second-period goals from Thomas Vanek and Clarke MacArthur in a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks at HSBC Arena.
"The goaltenders are a big part of our success this year so far, and Pat was the difference tonight, for sure," Buffalo captain Craig Rivet said. "We've got huge smiles on our faces for him. He's a well-liked guy in our dressing room, and he comes to the rink everyday and works his tail off. We're so happy for him to get this big win."
An 11-year veteran, Lalime lost his first two starts this season and was recently sent to Portland of the AHL for a conditioning stint. He returned to the Sabres in top form, making 17 saves in the first period alone and extending the team's shutout streak to 139 minutes, 51 seconds before Patrick Sharp scored 30 seconds into the third period.
"It feels good," Lalime said. "When you don't win for a while, there's always pressure, so it's nice to get that one out of the way. We're one big team, and it was a great team effort."
Cristobal Huet stopped 31 shots for the Blackhawks, who are 3-3-1 in their last seven and have scored only 11 goals during that span.
"I don't think you can be concerned with the team we have," forward Patrick Kane said. "It might be a little funk. We're trying to get used to different lines and different things. It's tough when you come up short."
Buffalo, which regained first place in the Northeast Division by one point over idle Boston, got on the scoreboard 3:42 into the second. Working on the power play, Tim Connolly took a shot that was blocked by Huet. Vanek kicked the loose puck onto his stick in front of the net before spinning and whipping it into the net.
MacArthur, who has scored eight of his nine goals this season at home, scored from the low slot with 1:21 left in the period, swatting in a cross-ice pass from Tim Kennedy.
Sharp got the Blackhawks off to a quick start in the third by tapping in Kane's pass at the top of the crease, but Lalime and the Sabres prevented them from scoring the tying goal.
"It was an up-and-down game," MacArthur said. "They put the pressure on in the third and were pinching, and they're a tough team to defend when they're all going like that. But I thought at the 10-minute mark we settled down and started playing our game."
Miller will be back between the pipes when Buffalo travels to New York on Saturday to face the Rangers after Lalime filled his role perfectly against Chicago.
"I thought he handled the whole game well," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "Ryan needs his time to stay fresh and sharp, so we need (Lalime) to win games for us and play well."
Scott Clemmensen made an impressive return to his former home when he turned aside 26 shots to lead Florida to just its second win in 11 games.
Clemmensen, who played parts of five seasons for New Jersey before signing with Florida in the offseason, was all smiles in the visitors locker room after earning the his fifth victory of the season and beating his former mentor, Martin Brodeur.
"I respect (Brodeur) and that organization so much, so it does mean a lot for me to come in here and beat them," Clemmensen said. "And I don't mean that in a negative sense at all. I have so much respect for them; it's a big win not only for me but for the team as well."
Second-year forward Michael Frolik snapped a five-game pointless streak with a pair of goals for the Panthers. His second, off a nifty breakaway 2:23 into the third, cooled down the Devils and their fans after New Jersey had cut a 3-0 deficit to 3-2 just 78 seconds earlier when Dean McAmmond's attempted pass from the left-wing corner deflected off the stick of Florida defenseman Keith Ballard into the net for his first of the season.
"I thought it was Frolik's best game of the year," Florida coach Peter DeBoer said. "Our young guys gave us good minutes out there, especially when (Dominic) Moore went down (with an abdominal injury in the second period). We had to shorten the bench, but the guys stuck with it."
The three-goal lead made things a lot easier for Clemmensen, who was named the game's third star.
"Anytime you can jump out to a lead like that, it takes the pressure off you as a goalie," said Clemmensen, who was pulled after allowing two quick goals to Washington in a 6-2 loss eight days earlier. "A three-goal lead was a credit to the guys going to the net and getting deflections in close on Marty. I was very impressed with everyone's effort, particularly our defense tonight."
After Jordan Leopold put Florida ahead with the only goal of the first period, the Panthers opened a 3-0 lead early in the second on a pair of goals in a span of 1:05. Frolik scored a power-play goal off a deflection of a shot from the left point by Ballard at 2:24, and Shawn Matthias extended the lead when he deflected a shot past a screened Brodeur at 3:29.
Brian Rolston pared the deficit to 3-1 at 7:16 on the Devils first shot of the period when he gathered a backhand feed from Patrik Elias in the left circle and ripped a shot that deflected off the inside of Clemmensen's left pad and over the goal line.
Clemmensen shut the door on the Devils the remainder of the period, stopping the next 10 shots, including two off the stick of the Devils' big gun, Zach Parise.
"We didn't overlook them," said defenseman Andy Greene, whose team hosts Atlantic Division rival Philadelphia on Saturday. "We come to play every night and never look ahead to another game. We just didn't play well in all three zones or for a full 60 minutes. Florida was aggressive and took it to us."
One goal probably can't erase all the disappointment of the first two dozen games of Martin Havlat's tenure with Minnesota. But it certainly helped the Wild earn two points.
Havlat finished off a great give-and-go with Marek Zidlicky and scored a spectacular goal 3:15 into overtime as Minnesota won its second straight and seventh in its last eight games.
Havlat, who also assisted on James Sheppard's tying goal in the third period, won it when he took a cross-ice pass back from Zidlicky and fired a shot from the right side of the net past Calgary goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, who had no chance.
"It was a brilliant play from Marek," Havlat said. "He did the whole thing and he just dropped it for me and then he gave it to me back. It was a great overall play from everybody."
Kiprusoff stopped 44 shots, but received only an Aaron Johnson goal early in the third for support.
The leading scorer on a star-studded Chicago team last season, Havlat embodied the Wild's struggles at the beginning of the season. He scored just two goals in his first 24 games and put up a minus-17 rating.
Things may be changing for Havlat and his team, however, and there was no better sign of that than a win at the Pengrowth Saddledome, where Minnesota had been just 3-18-3 all-time entering Friday.
"We just continued playing the way we left off in Colorado (a 1-0 win Wednesday) and our game tonight I think was one of the best," Havlat said. "We stuck together and kept playing the way we're supposed to. We worked hard until the end and that's why we won tonight."
After Kiprusoff and Niklas Backstrom combined to keep the game scoreless heading into the third, Johnson gave the Flames an edge with his first goal of the season at the 5:10 mark.
"It was a hard as I could make it, that's for sure," Johnson said. "I was just trying to get on net and obviously excited for my first goal as a Flame."
It stayed that way until Sheppard scored at 9:30 on one of Minnesota's 15 shots in the period. Kiprusoff held off the Wild to force overtime, something that hardly surprised ex-teammate Chuck Kobasew.
"He played great, as he always does," Kobasew said. "We expect that from him and know it's going to take great shots to beat him. We stuck with it. We had chances, you can't let that frustrate you. You keep going."
Wojtek Wolski gave the Pepsi Center crowd what it had been waiting seemingly forever for – a goal. Then he did it again in the shootout and provided Colorado with a victory.
Wolski tied the game with 7:49 remaining in the third and had the only score in the penalty-shot tiebreaker as the Avalanche edged the Lightning and swept their season series.
"Lately we've been snakebitten," Wolski said. "Tonight we really put the effort forth."
Craig Anderson, who had a shutout in Tampa Bay on Colorado's recent road trip but hurt his neck in overtime of the following game against Florida and hadn't played since, made a triumphant return with 21 saves. He also stopped Stephane Veilleux, Vincent Lecavalier and Alex Tanguay in the shootout.
"Sometimes the toughest job is when you don't see a lot of shots," he said about facing just five shots total in the third period and overtime.
Steve Downie's first-period goal was the only offense for the Lightning.
When Wolski scored, it ended a stretch of nearly two weeks since the Avalanche had last scored a goal on home ice. Most of that time was spent on a five-game road trip, but they returned on Wednesday and were blanked 1-0 by Minnesota, their fourth loss to the Wild in as many games this season.
Tampa's Antero Niittymaki seemed ready to make it back-to-back shutouts, but Wolski found himself in the right place at the right time. He was driving to the net when a Paul Stastny centering pass first hit off Niittymaki and then deflected off his body and past the helpless goalie.
"Sometimes you just have to go to the net and get a lucky bounce," Wolski said. "I've had so many chances in the last little while and they're not going in. Sometimes you just have to get the ugly ones."
Up until that point, Downie had the game's only goal, scored at 12:12 after Anderson stopped shots by Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis. The second rebound ended up on Downie's stick, and he scored his sixth of the season on a wrist shot into an open net.
"You knew they were going to come, we just didn't have an answer for them," Tampa Bay coach Rick Tocchet said. "Actually, we had one answer -- Niittymaki. That was our only answer."
Material from wire services and team broadcast media was used in this report