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Johnson makes 44 saves, Sabres shut out Ducks

by Joe Yerdon

BUFFALO -- It had been nearly two years since Buffalo Sabres goalie Chad Johnson had a shutout. He had to withstand a barrage of shots from the Anaheim Ducks to get one.

Johnson made 44 saves for his fourth NHL shutout and the Sabres defeated the Ducks 3-0 at First Niagara Center on Thursday.

It was Johnson's first shutout since March 21, 2014, when he blanked the Colorado Avalanche while playing for Boston Bruins.

"I wasn't thinking shutout at all; that doesn't really cross my mind," Johnson said. "They had some good chances in the first with guys coming down the wing. Maybe I make it look a little easy every now and again. We just defended really well as a group."

Johnson broke the Sabres record for most saves in a shutout, previously held by Ryan Miller, who made 43 saves in a 2-0 win against the Ducks in Anaheim on Feb. 29, 2012.

"I can think of six times in the first and second periods where either coming down the wing or [the Ducks] had to pull it to the middle and had a good look at him from a good shooting spot with some good player shooting the puck and never looked like it was going to get by him," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "[He was] real calm in net, real solid in net, right throughout the whole game. It got a little hairy there on the power play [in the third period] where they had a flurry with the puck in the crease and he was the guy that was probably the most under control. I'm glad we buckled down and got the shutout for him."

Evander Kane, Jake McCabe and Jamie McGinn scored for the Sabres (14-16-3), who have won three of their past four games and are 1-1-0 on a three-game homestand that concludes against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday.

Kane opened the scoring 2:36 into the second period. Jack Eichel sent the puck towards the Ducks net, and it glanced off of Kane's right foot and past goalie John Gibson for his seventh goal of the season.

"There have been times where Jack would hang onto that puck and try to make some more out of it and cut the seam," Bylsma said. "He gets to the top there, which he has often for us, and just kind of throws one to the front of the net for Evander who's right at the blue paint and gets a goal scorer's goal."

McCabe, a defenseman, made it 2-0 with 6:25 left in the second period with his third goal of the season. He pinched in from the blue line, took a cross-slot pass from Cal O'Reilly and beat a sprawled-out Gibson from the lower left circle.

"The second goal was a big goal for us as well," Bylsma said. "[The Ducks] had carried the play a little bit in that period and Cal O'Reilly could've had three assists in that shift, and we finally get [McCabe] to score the goal for us and it's a big one."

O'Reilly's assist was his first point in the NHL since Feb. 5, 2012, when he was a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins. He made his Sabres debut on Tuesday against the New Jersey Devils after he was recalled from the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League on Dec. 5. In that game he played in the NHL for the first time with his brother Ryan O'Reilly.

"A pretty special moment, especially being on a team with my brother," O'Reilly said. "For a while I wasn't sure if I'd ever play in the NHL again. The Sabres organization gave me a chance and it's pretty special."

The Ducks came alive in the third period.

Anaheim began the period with 1:32 of power-play time and had another chance with the man-advantage at 3:08 when Sabres defenseman Josh Gorges took a tripping penalty. Late in that power play, the Ducks had a flurry of chances and put four shots on goal only to see Johnson and his defense prevent them from scoring.

"We don't have enough hunger, we don't have enough drive," Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf said. "Everything, I think, right now it feels like we're almost there. It was almost a nice play; it was almost ... and in this league that's not good enough."

Johnson's four saves on that power play came in a span of 26 seconds. He made six more saves in a span of 1:42 between 8:06 and 9:48 of the third that proved to be the Ducks' last gasp.

"We knew they were going to come and throw everything at us," Johnson said. "We just sort of stuck to it, played strong defensively. There's a lot of skill of there, they come fast, and I thought we did a good job."

The Ducks outshot the Sabres 18-6 in the third period.

"The finish right now; well, it's gone all year, the finish hasn't been there," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "It seems like we hold onto the puck an extra second when we should be shooting and we pass when we should be shooting and we shoot when we should be passing. Maybe somebody was wide open and then when they get the opportunity it's like they're squeezing the stick so tight that they can't make a play, it's bouncing off them left, right and center. When that happens and they come down the ice and score, it's fairly deflating."

McGinn made it 3-0 with 6:10 left in the third period. McGinn received a pass from Rasmus Ristolainen and stuffed his shot past Gibson for his seventh goal of the season.

"To get that third goal is just huge," McGinn said. "Getting up by three kind of deflates them and we go from there. They were coming hard, but we stuck with it. We're learning and it shows a lot of maturity to stick with it and pull out that win tonight."

Ristolainen has six points (three goals, three assists) in his past five games.

The Ducks (11-14-5) lost the opener of a four-game road trip that continues Saturday against the New Jersey Devils and have dropped two in a row. Gibson finished with 19 saves.

"Quite frankly, when your best players aren't your best players you're not going to win the game and that's the bottom line," Boudreau said. "And on a too-consistent basis, our best players aren't our best players."

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