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Sabres beat Devils 2-1 in shootout

by Mike G. Morreale
NEWARK, N.J. -- Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller was just grateful to "grind one out" for his team on Tuesday on the way to a 2-1 shootout decision over the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center.
Nathan Gerbe scored the decisive goal in the fourth round of a shootout after Miller had made three successive saves during the tiebreaker to seal the deal for the visitors.
The victory not only snapped the Sabres' 12-game road losing streak but marked their first win in six games overall.
"It's been a while since I've been able to grind one out," Miller told "I just feel like everything that could have gone wrong this year, has been going wrong. That was a game where a lot of things went right … my job is to clean up the mistakes, so it was nice to be there when they had their chances."
Boy, was he ever.
Ilya Kovalchuk had given the Devils the lead in the shootout by beating Miller on the first shot. But Miller and Devils goalie Martin Brodeur then traded saves before Sabres captain Jason Pominville snapped a wrist shot past Brodeur in the third round to square the tiebreaker.
"I had plenty of time and [the puck] kind of went forward on me, but I was so far away that I had time to settle it down," Pominville said. "I didn't panic or anything. I just trying to change the angle and went left, right, left … so I was able to make him move a little."
Miller then stopped Adam Henrique before Gerbe beat Brodeur inside the left post for the winner. It was the Sabres' first victory away from First Niagara Center since a 3-2 win at Nashville on Dec. 3 -- Buffalo had not had a point on the road since then.
"It hasn't been an easy stretch," Pominville said of the Sabres' slump, which has them in 14th place in the East at the All-Star break. "It's been tough on everyone and we've had a lot of discussions and meetings on ways to try and play better. I thought we did a better job defending and not giving them as many opportunities as we did in the past on the rush.
"It's a good way to go into the break with a win … and maybe put a smile on everyone's face."
Miller was fabulous throughout, stopping 27 shots through 65 minutes. He needs one victory to equal Dominik Hasek's franchise record of 234 career wins.
Devils coach Peter DeBoer found it hard to believe the 31-year-old goalie had been struggling this season. Miller entered the game just 3-9-0 in his last 12 decisions while sporting an un-Miller-like 5.00 goals-against average and .836 save percentage in his last three starts.
"It didn't look like he was struggling … he looked pretty comfortable in there," DeBoer said. "He's one of the top three or four goalies in the League, so you knew it was just a matter of time before he got his game back. But it wasn't for a lack of effort on our end. We did a lot more to score goals [against Buffalo] than we did the past two games, but he came up big."
The Devils have now lost three straight home games while being outscored 9-3.
New Jersey had three golden opportunities in the opening minute of overtime to end the contest but Miller was equal to the task. His glove save off Kovalchuk on a 2-on-1 just 25 seconds into the extra session was a thing of beauty.
"I had a great chance … I don't know how [Miller] saved that," said Kovalchuk, who logged a game-high 29:15 of ice time.
Said Sabres coach Lindy Ruff: "Those are the types of saves that turn it around for you. We've been talking about a big game and, typically, you get out of these slumps with a 1-0 or 2-1 type of game and that's what happened."
Pominville could only shake his head in disbelief when asked about Miller's denial of Kovalchuk.
"It was unreal … the game should have been over but he got his glove on it somehow," Pominville said. "It was nice to see him play the way he did tonight."
Less than 30 seconds after Kovalchuk's chance, Henrique unleashed a snap shot from prime position between the circles that Miller stopped. Zach Parise later barreled down his right wing and broke in on Miller with 1:24 left, but his backhand attempt was no match for Miller. The Devils finished with a 28-14 shot advantage.
New Jersey also had chances to end the game in the third period. Jacob Josefson almost snapped the 1-1 deadlock with 8:28 left when his shot from the slot skittered behind Miller but was stopped short of the goal line by the stick blade of defenseman Jordan Leopold. Henrique had a similar chance with 3:40 left in regulation, but his shot from the left circle rang off the long-side post.
The Sabres had one grand opportunity with just nine seconds left in the third when Ville Leino's snap shot from in close was denied by Brodeur.
The Devils pulled into a 1-1 tie on the power-play when Patrik Elias slipped home his 18th of the season 10:22 into the second. Kurtis Foster's initial shot from the right point hit Tyler Myers before Parise picked up the loose puck and dished to Elias to Miller's left. Myers, who appeared to get hit in the knee with the shot, remained down for several minutes before being helped off the ice and into the Sabres locker room -- though he later returned.
Alexei Ponikarovsky barely missed at giving the Devils their first lead after taking a pass and skating through the slot in an attempt to tuck the puck around Miller. The goaltender got the tip of his right pad on the shot while doing the splits with less than two minutes left to keep the game even.
The Devils outshot the Sabres 12-3 in the second period, but had just one goal to show for their effort.
"This is really where the rubber hits the road in the last 30 games, in all areas," DeBoer said after the Devils dropped to eighth at the break. "Sure, we need to score goals, but we've got to take steps in a lot of different areas, including special teams, to get to where we want to go."
The Sabres opened a 1-0 lead in the opening period when Leopold beat Brodeur at 16:34 following an opportunistic bounce. Gerbe took the initial rip from the top of the left circle that hit the glass behind the cage before deflecting off the back of Brodeur and onto the stick a charging Leopold, who easily snapped home his eighth of the season.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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