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Sabres top Devils 2-1 in shootout

by John Kreiser

The U.S. Olympic Team hopes Ryan Miller plays as well against Martin Brodeur and Team Canada next month as he did against Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night.

Miller stopped 39 shots through 65 minutes and both of New Jersey's shootout attempts as the Buffalo Sabres beat the Devils 2-1, ending a four-game losing streak.

Jochen Hecht and Jason Pominville scored against Brodeur, the winningest goaltender in shootouts since the NHL adopted the tiebreaker in 2005. Miller stopped Zach Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner in the first two rounds to snap a personal three-game shootout losing streak.

"I wasn't going into the game banging my head against the wall, but I knew I could be better in the shootout," Miller said.

Brodeur finished with 30 saves in the potential Olympic matchup. Miller is likely to start for Team USA, while Brodeur is expected to be the starter for Canada next month in Vancouver.

Another Olympian, Germany's Hecht, beat Brodeur with a heads-up play for the deciding shootout goal. Brodeur went for the poke check, and Hecht made a nifty deke before scoring.

"I didn't make my mind up until he got close," Brodeur said about the shootout showdown. "I thought he wasn't really looking at me."

Hecht, who's perfect on all three shootout attempts this season, certainly was.

"I saw him early enough to get out of the way, and it was an empty net," he said.

Pominville zipped in a wrist shot in the third round to end the game. Adam Mair scored in regulation for Buffalo (31-14-7), which returned home after a 2-3-2 trip.

"It was a hard game," said Sabres coach Lindy Ruff, who shook things up with his struggling team by sitting the defensive pair of Toni Lydman and Steve Montador in favor of Andrej Sekera and Nathan Paetsch. "The effort was good. We stayed away from the situations that we got ourselves into the last couple of games."

Brian Rolston scored the only goal for the offensively-challenged Devils (34-16-2), who've scored just 12 times during an eight-game stretch in which they are 2-5-1.

"We did a good job of creating opportunities, but we didn't finish," said Langenbrunner, who was whistled for goalie interference 8 minutes into the third period after delivering a blow to Miller's head, then hit Miller in the mask with a slap shot in overtime. "(Miller) bailed them out of a few situations."

Sabres center Tim Connolly failed to register a point, snapping his career-high 16-game points streak.

Brodeur, meanwhile, rebounded from a poor start against Ottawa on Tuesday in which he was pulled after allowing three goals on 12 shots over the first two periods.

New Jersey was playing its fourth game in six nights, while the Sabres returned from their season-long seven-game swing out West, which ended with a 3-2 loss at Vancouver on Monday.

"To me, it looked like you were looking at two tired teams," Ruff said. "There was only pockets of energy here and there."

Mair gave Buffalo the lead with his second of the season at 14:14 of the first period. Standing in front of the net, Mair was able to get a piece of Derek Roy's slap shot from the top of the right circle.

Rolston tied it with his 16th at 14:51 of the second. Johnny Oduya threw a home-run pass that sprung Rolston, who raced along the left wing before unleashing a slap shot from the left circle that beat Miller on the short side.

"When you get more chances, you want to win," Devils coach Jacques Lemaire said. "You get a point, but this is a game that I felt we should have won."

Material from wire services and team media was used in this report

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