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Sabres top Devils in shootout for third win in row

by Chris Ryndak

BUFFALO -- With the Buffalo Sabres' leading scorer out of the lineup on Saturday, they would need contributions from up and down the lineup to find success.

The Sabres defeated the New Jersey Devils 4-3 in a shootout at First Niagara Center, thanks in part to two goals from captain Jason Pominville and 28 saves from goaltender Ryan Miller.

Buffalo, playing without leading scorer Thomas Vanek, who missed the game with an upper-body injury, won its third game in a row for the first time this season.

"You need those guys. You need your best players to be your best players in this League on a regular basis," Sabres interim coach Ron Rolston said. "We've been fortunate in this last stretch that that's been the case, especially when [Vanek] was out."

New Jersey has lost four-straight games and has earned points in four of its past nine (2-5-2).

Pominville and Tyler Ennis scored in the shootout.

Pominville began the shootout by firing a wrister past Johan Hedberg, then Ilya Kovalchuk ripped one over top of the net. Ennis snapped a shot past Johan Hedberg before Miller ended the game by stopping Adam Henrique.

The Sabres are 3-0 in the shootout this season; the Devils are 0-3.

"We're not making saves and we're not scoring," Hedberg said. "We have to get back on track on that. Some big points [are] on the line, and it's hard to lose them. We have to go and try better at that."

Hedberg, playing in place of injured starter Martin Brodeur, made 20 saves.

Pominville was on the ice for five of the game's six goals.

"I was on the ice when something happened, whether it was good or bad," he said. "It was nice to be able to get on a winning streak, get three in a row and get on a roll."

Jochen Hecht added a third-period goal for Buffalo. Cody Hodgson assisted on each of Pominville's goals.

Rolston improved to 3-2-0 since taking over and likes the progress the team has made under his leadership.

"When I first got here, if we gave up the third goal, it might have been a different result," Rolston said. "Right now we're getting more resilient to find ways to win games instead of finding ways to lose games."

Henrique scored shorthanded, and Steve Bernier added his sixth goal of the season. Andrei Loktionov tied the game at 3-3 by scoring with 8:38 left in regulation.

Hecht scored his first goal of the season 9:47 into the third period to give the Sabres a 3-2 lead. He skated down the right wing with the puck and started to go behind the net. The puck ended up on the stick of rookie Mikhail Grigorenko, who passed the puck back to Hecht around the back of the net. Hecht took the puck from the right of Hedberg and banked it in from the side of the net.

New Jersey tied it at 11:22 when Loktionov scored his third of the season. Kovalchuk passed the puck from the left point to Stefan Matteau, who fed a backhand pass into the slot. Loktionov took the pass, pushed his way into the front of the net and, with Miller down, slid the puck past his right pad.

Pominville's shorthanded goal opened the scoring at 7:17 of the second period.

Hodgson beat Kovalchuk to the puck in the right-wing corner and dished it in front to Pominville, who one-timed it past Hedberg. The goal was Pominville's eighth of the season and the 10th shorthanded goal of his career. It was Buffalo's second shorthanded goal of the season.

"It was a great effort by [Hodgson] the entire shift," Pominville said. "He won a draw in our zone and I think [defenseman Mike Weber] ended up clearing it. He saw an opportunity to go."

The Devils tied it 2:07 later when a shot from Mark Fayne went off Bernier's midsection over the goal line.

Steve Ott and David Clarkson dropped the gloves 27 seconds into the game to set the tone for what would be a scrappy, physical afternoon.

"It was a chippy game and I think we let that get to us a little bit," said Devils forward Ryan Carter, who returned to the lineup after missing four games with a concussion. "We took some undisciplined penalties and the PK bailed us out."

Patrick Kaleta and Kovalchuk played their own physical game against each other for most of the first period. Following a shift when both players were sent to the box for roughing, Kaleta coaxed Kovalchuk into a high-sticking penalty.

The Sabres' power play, 28th in the NHL entering the game, went 0-for-6. Buffalo squandered two first-period advantages by taking penalties; the Sabres also failed on two power plays in overtime.

Henrique scored shorthanded to put the Devils ahead 1:21 into the third period. Buffalo opened the period on the power play after Carter cross-checked Kaleta into the boards in the Sabres zone as the second period expired. Henrique skated down left wing and avoided the reaches of Ott and Pominville as he went in alone on Miller. Henrique moved the puck back to his forehand and wristed a shot over Miller's blocker for his fifth goal of the season.

Henrique snapped a nine-game goalless drought with the fifth shorthanded goal of his NHL career.

"We had a lot more chances in the third and couldn't seem to find that go-ahead one," Henrique said.

Pominville answered with his second goal of the game at 3:10. Hodgson found him across the ice and sent a perfect pass that Pominville shot in from one knee.

Buffalo improved to 4-6-1 at home and avoided its first four-game home winless streak since Feb. 13 to Feb. 20, 2011. The Sabres haven't lost four consecutive home games in regulation since Oct. 15 to Nov. 5, 2010.

Forward Brian Flynn was recalled from the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League to make his NHL debut. Flynn will remain with the team when they travel to play the New York Rangers on Sunday. The Sabres placed defenseman Jordan Leopold on injured reserve.

"Obviously we would like to have Thomas [Vanek] out there. He's an important part to the team," Pominville said. "But I think at the same time it just shows you that when you work as a team and you stick to the system, the system is built to support everyone. It's not a one-guy team and I think we showed it tonight with a gutsy effort by everyone."

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