by Brian Wheeler
The Buffalo Sabres have thrilled when the game is on the line. Mike Grier redirected Chris Drury's shot from the right face-off circle past Minnesota goaltender Dwayne Roloson at 16:28 of the third to lift Buffalo to the 3-2 victory over the Wild on Sunday night.
"We're getting the bounces right now and things have been going well," said Grier, who was named first star of the game. "We've got all sorts of guys chipping in and Marty has made the big saves late in games. Right now, we have things rolling our way."
In the midst of a three-game winning streak, Buffalo has outscored their opponents 5-2 during the third period.
"(Minnesota) is a very good team defensively and they like to clog up the neutral zone," said Grier. "When you are in their zone, they have five guys around the net so it's tough to get consistent offense against them."
Buffalo also received goals from Chris Drury and rookie Thomas Vanek
as the team wins their seventh consecutive road game and moves to 19-10-1 on the season.
"On the road, we are just simplifying our game, not trying to do too much and just working hard," said Grier.
Sabres goaltender Martin Biron made 34 saves en route to his franchise record 10th consecutive victory in as many starts. Gerry Desjardins previously held that distinction with nine consecutive victories in December of the 1975-76 season.
Former Sabre Dominik Hasek was the last goaltender in the NHL to win 10 consecutive starts. Hasek completed the feat with Detroit during 2001-02.
Riding the team's recent success, Buffalo has won five of their last six games by a margin of 3-2, while the team has now claimed 23 out of 26 possible points in their last 13 games.
"It's something that you kind of peek at but during the season, but you really don't look at it too much," responded Grier when asked about Buffalo holding the third best record in the Eastern Conference and the team's position in the standings. "The thing with our division is that we know we have got to try to keep pace and that there are no easy games."
Daniel Briere added a spark for Buffalo after returned to action for the first time in eight games. Briere didn't make it onto the score sheet but saw more than 18 minutes of ice time in the game.
"He definitely gave us some energy and confidence tonight," said Grier of Briere's play. "He's the one guy out there who's a game-breaker for us and he played great. He missed almost a month, came back and ran our power play beautifully."
After two-seasons of collegiate hockey for the University of Minnesota, Vanek returned to St. Paul and gave Buffalo the early 1-0 lead in the first period.
Following a flurry of activity in front of Minnesota's net, Vanek kicked a loose puck in traffic into reach is his stick and slapped a shot between the Roloson's left blocker and the right post.
Minnesota tied the game five minutes later on a two-man advantage when Mikko Koivu's one-timer from the slot snuck between Sabres goaltender Martin Biron's legs.
The Wild received their first lead of the game off Brian Rolston's deflection of Marian Gaborik's pass from behind the net at 11:47 of the second.
Drury tied the game with just 39 seconds remaining in the period with his ninth goal of the season, punching in defenseman Jay McKee's shot from the left point which had deflected off Grier past Roloson.
Redirecting Drury's shot from the right face-off circle, Grier scored the game-winning goal to give Buffalo the 3-2 lead.
-------------------------------- SCORING REPORTS
| Super Stats
| Faceoff Comp
| Play By Play
| Shift Chart GAME BLOG:
1-0 (8:03): After a flurry of activity in front of Minnesota goaltender Dwayne Roloson, Thomas Vanek
slams the puck into the back of the net, as he's getting leveled from behind, for his sixth goal of the season. Derek Roy
and Maxim Afinogenov get the helpers. The goal wiped away a delayed penalty on Minnesota after Afinogenov was taken down in front of the net.
1-1 (11:17): Minnesota ties the game on the two-man advantage after Mikko Koivu beats Martin Biron with a one-timer from about 15 feet in the slot. Randy Robitaille and Brian Rolston get the helpers. Period 2
1-2 (11:47): Brian Rolston deflects Marian Gaborik's pass from behind the net between Martin Biron's legs to give the Wild their first lead of the game. The goal is Rolston's 12th of the season. Brent Burns gets the second helper.
2-2 (19:21): With 39 seconds remaining in the period, Jay McKee lobs a wristshot on net that deflects off Mike Grier and is slapped home by Chris Drury. The goal is Drury's ninth of the season. McKee and Toni Lydman record the assists. Period 3
3-2 (16:28): Chris Drury drills a shot from the left face-off circle that is redirected by Mike Grier to give Buffalo the 3-2 lead. The goal is Grier's second of the game and fifth of the season. Drury and Jochen Hecht
get the helpers.
Quotes courtesy of WGR 550-AM, the official radio partner of the Buffalo Sabres.