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Bernier makes good first impression in Buffalo

by Brian Compton

Steve Bernier made quite the debut in his first game in Buffalo Wednesday night as he scored on his first two shots to help lead the  surging Sabres to an 8-4 victory over the Nashville Predators.
Watch Bernier's pair of goals 700K  700K 
Steve Bernier badly wanted to make an impact in his first game with the Buffalo Sabres.
Mission accomplished.
Bernier, acquired on Tuesday from San Jose as part of the Brian Campbell trade, scored on his first two shots on Wednesday night as the Sabres continued their surge towards the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a wild 8-4 win over the Nashville Predators at HSBC Arena.
“All day, I was thinking about the game,” Bernier said. “I had problems falling asleep last night, and I had problems sleeping this afternoon. Everything went well, and I’m glad it went the way I wanted it to go.”
Bernier ended a 12-game drought with his fifth career multi-goal game. Ales Kotalik, Derek Roy, Daniel Paille, Jason Pominville, Tim Connolly and Andrew Peters also scored for the Sabres, who pulled moved ahead of the idle Philadelphia Flyers for the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference.
“You can’t say enough about the guy,” Peters said of Bernier. “He came in this morning and was an instant hit in the locker room. Great guy, good personality. You could tell he’s a real team guy. He went out and had a great game. I’m happy for him.”
Both of Bernier’s tallies came in the opening period. He scored his first goal as a Sabre 4:33 into the game ( 700K ) when he took a pretty feed from Derek Roy right in front of the net and tapped it past Chris Mason to give Buffalo a 1-0 lead. Bernier scored again with 5:33 left in the first ( 700K ) when he one-timed Toni Lydman’s feed past Mason, giving the Sabres a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes. Lydman had four assists in the victory.

“When your confidence isn’t where you want your confidence to be, and the first shot you make you score, it helps your confidence,” Bernier said. “It’s only one game, though. There’s a lot of games left.”
Nashville had a golden opportunity to cut the deficit in half early in the second period when Scott Nichol was awarded a penalty shot after being hauled down on a shorthanded breakaway attempt. But Ryan Miller came up with the save ( 700K ) — and Paille scored ( 700K ) shortly thereafter to put the Sabres up by three.
“That game had everything,” said Miller, who finished with 29 saves. “Just a wild game from the outset. It was entertaining, no doubt.”
Jan Hlavac gave the Predators some life when he scored his first goal with his new club at 2:46 of the second period ( 700K ), just 45 seconds after Paille’s goal. Jason Arnott then made it a 3-2 game ( 700K ) at 3:20, roofing a rebound over Jocelyn Thibault for his 23rd goal of the season. Thibault briefly relieved Miller after the latter took a shot from Marek Zidlicky to the mask that caused him to have a bloody nose. Miller missed about eight minutes of play.
Sabres coach Lindy Ruff admitted his team suffered from some defensive miscues as it learns to live without Campbell, an All-Star on the blue line.
“We did have some problems in our own end … there’s no ducking that issue,” Ruff said.

“That’s something we’re going to try to address. We’ll just move forward.”
The Sabres certainly moved forward after Arnott pulled Nashville within one, as Peters found the back of the net 53 seconds later ( 700K ). It was the gritty forward’s first goal of the season. 
“I had an opportunity earlier in the first period, and I got so excited when the puck was coming to my stick that I shot it off the toe,” Peters said. “I’m just happy to contribute on the scoresheet.”
Arnott got the Predators within one again with a power-play goal at 7:53 of the second ( 700K ), but the Sabres entered the intermission with a 6-3 lead thanks to late tallies from Pominville ( 700K ) and Roy ( 700K ). Connolly ( 700K ) and Kotalik ( 700K ) helped Buffalo pull away in the third after David Legwand scored on the power play 3:04 into the final period ( 700K ).
“I thought we came out and really skated well,” Ruff said. “It was a big win for us. We came out ready to play. We took it to ‘em.”
It was a tough way to Nashville to begin a six-game road trip, the Preds’ longest of the season.
"It's quite frustrating because the urgency has got to be there," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "We blew a chance to get points. By the time we get home, we might be out of the playoffs. We might be ninth."
If the Sabres keep getting performances from Bernier like the one they received on Wednesday night, they’ll continue to remain right in the thick of the playoff race.
“To have as good a night on his first night, it’s almost like a dream come true,” Ruff said. “It was great to see. He played a great game. He set up a couple of great opportunities. There was lots of good things about his game. He made it look easy tonight, but it’s going to get tougher.”

Material from wire services and broadcast media was used in this report.

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