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Miller saves Sabres in win over Islanders

by John Kreiser

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- It's been an up-and-down season for Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller. Saturday night was definitely one of the ups.

Miller stopped 41 shots, and Alexander Sulzer scored the go-ahead goal 7:35 into the third period as the Sabres defeated the New York Islanders 3-2 despite being outshot 43-15.

The Sabres had allowed four or more goals in each of their past six games. Miller is the only reason it's not seven in a row.

"Every season you're going to have a couple of games like that," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "Our puck movement wasn't good, we got caught in our end a few times, but Ryan made the big saves when we needed them."

Miller did get a little help from his goal posts in the third period. A rocket from the right circle by John Tavares rang off the right post, and Tavares' backhander on a penalty shot with 3:53 left also drew iron and stayed out.

"I just wanted to not give him a lot of room," Miller said. "He wanted me to slide a little bit back to the blocker side. He made a nice move, and I tried to take him as far as I could, push him outside, and I got a good bounce."

Tavares said, "I just didn't put it in. It hit the post and stayed out. I got the room that I needed and it just was not enough."

The win gave the Sabres back-to-back victories after they went 3-6-1 in their first 10 games.

"We need to win all different ways," Miller said. "We just need to win. Tonight it worked out a little bit better for me. We got some good bounces and I was able to get in the way a little bit more than in the last few games."

The Sabres had not had a shot on goal in the third period before Steve Ott carried into the New York zone and left a drop pass for Sulzer at the left point. The defenseman's high shot went past a couple of bodies in front, hit the shoulder of goaltender Evgeni Nabokov and trickled into the net for Sulzer's third of the season.

NHL scoring leader Thomas Vanek and defenseman Christian Ehrhoff also scored for the Sabres, who've won their past two games. Tavares and Colin McDonald had goals for the Islanders, who've been outscored 14-5 in dropping four in a row, including three at home.

"We created opportunities," Tavares said. "That's the way we have to play. We just have to be better than the goaltender."

New York was scoreless on its three power plays and is 0-for-22 with the man advantage during the losing streak after going 9-for-24 during a 4-2-1 start.

The Islanders dominated the first period, outshooting Buffalo 15-4 and keeping Miller busy, but the Sabres turned one of their few offensive forays into the game's first goal. Vanek fired home his 11th of the season at 9:11 after he and Cody Hodgson whacked away at a loose puck following a shot by Jordan Leopold that hit a body in front.

New York kept the pressure on and was finally rewarded when Tavares scored his sixth of the season with 41.1 seconds left in the period. Tavares was just off the left post when Brain Strait's point shot caromed off Leopold in front; the forward picked up the loose puck and slid it into the net before Miller could go from right to left.

"He got a good bounce on that one, so maybe the [penalty shot] evened things out," Miller said with a smile.

The second period followed the same script: long periods of domination by the Islanders, followed by a Sabres goal. Buffalo went eight minutes without getting a shot on Nabokov, but took a 2-1 lead at 12:21 when Hodgson's pass from just inside the Islanders' blue line sent Ehrhoff in alone. He snapped a 10-footer past Nabokov's blocker for his first of the season and a 2-1 lead.

The Islanders continued to press and tied it on a goal by their fourth line. Casey Cizikas pickpocketed Buffalo defenseman Mike Weber behind the net after Strait intentionally fired wide. Cizikas wheeled out behind the net and found McDonald, whose one-timer beat Miller cleanly at 17:35. It was his second NHL goal, first with the Islanders.

"They did a nice job with their forecheck," Miller said. "We were moving the puck, trying to do close support, but they'd put two guys on it, working and jamming, and they pressured us. They're a good skating team, there's a lot of good talent on that team, and they used it pretty effectively. They definitely carried [the play] most of the night."

Tavares' postgame frustration was evident – and understandable. The Islanders had 82 shot attempts to 37 for Buffalo, won more faceoffs (29-27) and were credited with more hits (17-13). The only place they didn't win was on the scoreboard.

"We hit three posts and had a lot of great chances," he said. "Sometimes it's bad luck, but I think that as many opportunities as we had, we've obviously got to put them in when we can."

The game marked the Islanders debut of defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky, who was acquired from the Anaheim Ducks on Draft Day but had not reported to the team until this week. He played 20:34, had three shots on goal and was plus-2. Forward Josh Bailey also played for the first time this season after knee surgery.

"I was pleased with his game for a guy who hasn't played for the last three, four weeks," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said.

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