-- Very rarely do sporting events live up to their advanced billing, but Sunday night's matchup between Ryan Miller
and Henrik Lundqvist
Lundqvist made 30 saves, but it was Miller who came out on top in this goaltending duel with 35 saves and a 2-1 overtime victory for the Buffalo Sabres
against the New York Rangers
at Madison Square Garden.
scored with 2:38 remaining in the extra period to help the Sabres snap an eight-game road losing streak. He banked in his own rebound off a fallen Lundqvist after the goalie had made two saves on Kaleta.
It was Kaleta's ninth goal of the season, and three of them have come at MSG.
What is it with him and this building?
"I don't know," Kaleta said with a laugh, "but I like it."
His goal put an exclamation point on what was a tremendous battle between two of the best goaltenders in the world. The Sabres scored the game's first goal with 5:57 left in the third period when Adam Mair roofed a shot over Lundqvist off a nice feed from behind the net by Derek Roy
But Brandon Dubinsky
tied the score with a power-play goal with 1:23 left off a wild net-mouth scramble to get the game to overtime and get the Rangers a valuable point.
"They are both great goalies and they both played great tonight," said Rangers winger Ryan Callahan
. "Unfortunately we ended up on the short end of the stick."
That's usually the case when facing Miller. The 29-year-old Olympic hero is one of the front-runners for the Vezina Trophy. He leads the League in goals-against average (2.13) and save percentage (.932).
The margin for error is always slim when Miller is involved.
"Every team has a good goaltender right now. He is definitely up there," Lundqvist said. "This year he has been really good. I knew that coming in here. I had a feeling it was going to be a low-scoring game. We have to be happy to get that point, but like I said, it is a little frustrating."
The loss was the Rangers' fourth in a row, and they lost a little ground in the chase for the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot. The Canadiens won in a shootout at Anaheim, moving them into seventh place. The eighth-place Bruins, who lost in regulation to the Penguins earlier in the day, now have a two-point lead on the ninth-place Rangers.
The Bruins, though, have two games in hand on the Rangers.
"It is big for us to get a point here," said Lundqvist, "but it is still a little frustrating to not get two points, especially when we tied it."
There were a couple of long droughts that ended Sunday night: Dubinsky's goal was the Rangers' first in 149 minutes, 30 seconds; the win was Buffalo's first away from home in eight games.
For Miller, he was just happy to come away with two points, no matter what the locale.
"Important two points for many reasons," Miller said. "The road's been a little bit of a struggle here. In the past we've been a good road team, so we'll just take a little pickup and move forward."
The win gives the Sabres sole possession of the Northeast Division lead over the Senators, who are two points back. The Sabres have two games in hand on the Senators.
One of Miller's best saves came after his own turnover in the second period.
He played the puck around the boards and to the point, where Rangers defenseman Matt Gilroy was waiting. He quickly released a blast that changed direction but wound up in Miller's catching glove.
The Rangers had a great chance to get on the board in the first period. Sean Avery
knocked down Miller as a shot came from the point. The rebound slithered slowly through the crease, but a diving Kaleta knocked it away before the Rangers could pounce.
"They got the puck to the net there and I got a little bit of interference and the crowd thought that was entertaining," Miller said sarcastically.
It looked like the Rangers had broken through on Miller with about 13 minutes left in the third period when Dubinsky beat him through the legs, but the goal was taken off the board because the play had been ruled offsides.
"Close play at the line. We'll take it," Miller said.
Lundqvist wasn't overly tested, but he made a nice save on Mark Mancari from the high slot with the Sabres on a power play in the first period. It was a far cry from Lundqvist's last game, when he stopped 50 of 55 shots against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night.
But it was just another wasted effort in a long line of great games this season by Lundqvist that don't result in two points because of the Rangers' lack of offense.
Rangers coach John Tortorella searched for a silver lining after stealing a point from Miller, who carried Team USA to a silver medal just one week earlier.
"We needed the two points, we got one," he said. "We have to keep on fighting. That is all we can do. There are a lot of questions about offense. The way we are trying to approach it is to make sure we are doing the right thing away from the puck so we can get the puck and have it more and try to generate more offense.
"We are going to continue to do that, continue to fight every night and see where we go."
Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter at: @DLozoNHL