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Santorelli, Franson help Predators top Sabres

by Joe Yerdon /

BUFFALO -- The Nashville Predators used a barrage of shots to get back in the win column.

Mike Santorelli and Filip Forsberg scored in the shootout, and Carter Hutton stopped three out of four shooters to give the Predators a 2-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center on Sunday. Forsberg ended the shootout in the fourth round when he deked and beat Sabres goalie Michal Neuvirth with a backhand shot.

Nashville outshot Buffalo 38-17.

Mike Ribeiro helped send the game to overtime when he scored a power-play goal with 4:17 left in the third period.

Hutton made 16 saves through overtime in his first start since Feb. 8 against the Florida Panthers.

"For me, just try to stay in the moment," Hutton said. "You don't want to try and overthink it too much. It's tough. Obviously, you'd like to see more shots and keep in a bigger rhythm, but at the same time I can only control what I can, so I just try to battle and stay focused."

The Predators (40-13-7) ended a two-game skid that included a 3-2 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.

"I think that the guys have done a good job of staying focused," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. "If they lose a game, they're usually not very happy about it and come back with a solid performance the next game."

Hutton was tested early in the game; the Sabres missed on three breakaway opportunities in the first period, including one chance when Tyler Ennis shot over the net with a backhand.

The Sabres (17-38-5) lost their fifth straight game at home.

"If you look at the shots at the beginning of the [first] period, we were like 4-1," Buffalo coach Ted Nolan said. "Tyler missed a great chance. I thought we played pretty well. You can't be disappointed [in] the outcome."

The Predators had 79 shot attempts compared to 30 for the Sabres, but they scored one goal through 65 minutes because of Neuvirth, who made 37 saves in his fifth consecutive start since Jhonas Enroth was traded to the Dallas Stars on Feb. 11.

"Michal played a great game again," Nolan said. "Every game he's played since he got all the starts, he's been playing really, really good for us."

Neuvirth has made 175 saves on 184 shots (.951 save percentage) in the five games since Enroth was traded.

"We were so close to [winning] the hockey game and [beating] the best team in the League, but we took way too many penalties, and they got one lucky bounce," Neuvirth said. "It's tough to swallow, but it's definitely nice to get a point against a team like that."

Ribeiro scored his 12th goal when he put a rebound of defenseman Cody Franson's shot from the left faceoff circle past Neuvirth.

"Obviously we need to get used to each other there, especially on the power play," Ribeiro said of Franson, who the Predators acquired with Santorelli in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Feb. 15. "He has a good shot, similar to [Shea Weber], so we'll have to practice. There's no time to practice, but we need to figure it out. … It's good to have him, it's good to have two [right-handed shots] there for me. I think we'll be good."

Ribeiro was open at the far side of the net when Franson's shot deflected off the stick of Sabres defenseman Andre Benoit. It was Franson's first point since returning to the Predators, who drafted him in 2005.

"It's nice to be able to contribute and help us get a point and take it into extra time," said Franson, who had 14 goals and 36 assists in 141 games for Nashville from 2009-11. "I thought we came close to closing it out in overtime, but [Hutton] played extremely well and gave us a chance in the shootout, and we converted."

Ennis gave the Sabres a 1-0 lead with 13.9 seconds left in the second period. He took a backhand pass from Zemgus Girgensons, who was covered by Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm, and deked around Hutton to score his 15th goal.

"Great play. I thought I read it almost too well. It came across, and Ennis made a great play," Hutton said. "He's a good player; most guys would just pound it into me, and he fakes and cuts back. It's one of those things that's frustrating at the time, but you know what was great - we stuck with it and was able to bear down and able to tie it then win it in the shootout."

The Sabres kept the game close despite being without four regular defensemen. Josh Gorges will miss the rest of the season because of a lower-body injury that will require surgery. Mike Weber is out at least two weeks because of an upper-body injury. Tyson Strachan didn't play because of an infection, and Nikita Zadorov was kept out of the lineup for violating a team rule.

Nolan said he was unsure how long Strachan will be out. He added that he still needed to speak with Zadorov about what happened with his team violation.

Jake McCabe and Mark Pysyk were recalled from Rochester of the American Hockey League to replace Strachan and Zadorov against Nashville. It was McCabe's first game of the season and Pysyk's third recall to Buffalo.

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