After completely dominating the first 20 minutes of play, the Buffalo Sabres
had only managed to put one goal on the board. Turns out that was all goaltender Ryan Miller
Miller stopped all 24 shots he faced for his second consecutive shutout, making Jason Pominville
's power-play goal late in the first period stand up, and Patrick Kaleta
added an insurance tally in the third as the Sabres beat the New Jersey Devils
2-0 on Monday night at the Prudential Center.
"Most of the time he is the best player on the ice, pretty much every game," Kaleta said of his netminder. "He comes to play every night and gives us a chance to win."
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Miller entered the game with an NHL-leading 1.82 goals-against average, coming off a 5-0 blanking of Washington on Saturday. He was mostly a spectator during the first period, as Buffalo outshot New Jersey 20-3, but was required to make some big stops over the final 30 minutes as the Sabres were assessed the final six minor penalties of the game.
"Our boys are doing a great job of playing overall good defense, making the team come 200 feet, and we're getting a lot of support right now," Miller said.
Miller's counterpart, Kevin Weekes
, couldn't exactly voice the same sentiments. Making his first start of the season in place of Martin Brodeur
-- who left Saturday's win over Atlanta with a bruised elbow -- Weekes was brilliant in preventing the Sabres from opening up a multiple-goal lead in the first.
The Devils were the ones taking all the penalties early, but Weekes was sharp. He helped New Jersey's penalty-killing unit successfully deny the Sabres on their first four opportunities, including a 5-on-3 that lasted for 1:36 late in the first. But just four seconds after the two-man advantage expired, Pominville took a Jaroslav Spacek
pass and beat Weekes from the left circle for his fourth goal.
"We moved the puck really well and Spacek made a great play," Pominville said. "He faked the shot and slid the puck over to me. I just had to one-time it in."
Adjusting to life without Brodeur, at least for the short-term -- the Devils didn't announce Monday when the goalie who is closing in on goalie records held by Patrick Roy
and Terry Sawchuk
might be back -- the second period started out just as shaky for New Jersey as the first had ended.
"We didn't play at all in the first," Devils center John Madden
said. "We stood around and watched and then the penalties. We didn't get anything going."
But the Devils gradually got their engines started, shifting the pressure from Weekes down to Miller at the other end of the ice. They outshot the Sabres 12-5 in the second and 9-5 in the third, but never got on the board. New Jersey finished 0-for-7 on the power play, including a 5-on-3 for 21 seconds midway through the third.
"Hockey games are funny like that," Miller said. "I bet (the officials) probably caught a little bit of flack because a lot of (the Devils') penalties were they were reaching for us when we were skating, and they tightened it up in the second and skated a lot better.
"That's the nature of hockey. If you're moving your feet, you're probably going to get those calls. You're going to get frustrated if you're on the other side of things. So we did a nice job in the first opening things up, but it's Jersey, they're going to figure it out and they're going to play tight."
Unlike the Sabres, though, the Devils never capitalized on any of their chances and they fell into a two-goal hole at 7:41 of the third when Kaleta redirected an Andrej Sekera
drive from the point between the pads of Weekes, who finished with 28 saves. It was Kaleta's first of the season, and Spacek drew his second assist of the night on the play.
"I thought he (Weekes) made the difference early or we would have run away with the game," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff
said. "Kevin played a great game in the first period -- he probably made, I'd say, seven quality saves and kept them in the game."
"I thought we did a great job in that period to be only down one," said Weekes, who had last started a game on Jan. 5. "We put ourselves in a position to win and that's what it is all about, giving yourself a chance to win."
Material from wire services and team broadcast media was used in this report.