With Buffalo chasing an opponent the team had yet to defeat, a pair of Sabres rookie's made the difference. Thomas Vanek
scored the only goal during a shootout and goaltender Ryan Miller
held the Senators scoreless to lead Buffalo to the 2-1 shootout victory on Saturday night and inch the team to within four points of the Northeast Division lead.
"That's big for us," said Miller. "We needed to know we could play with that team. I knew we could with the way we've been playing lately and we just had to prove it to ourselves."
Vanek scored after doing his "around-the-world" move as the crowd of nearly 18,000 erupted. Coming in on former Sabre Dominik Hasek, the rookie circled the puck with the blade of his stick before firing a wristshot into the top right corner of the net. The move caused Hasek to drop his glove ever so slightly.
"I was a little lucky that (Hasek) bit but it worked out, and that's all that matters," said Vanek, who is 2-2 while facing Hasek in shootouts after also beating the Czech netminder during the preseason. "Ever since I can remember, (Hasek) was the goalie to beat in Europe and to now beat him myself ... I still can't believe it."
Miller, who made 28 saves during regulation and overtime, snagged Mike Fisher and Daniel Alfredsson's offerings with his glove on Ottawa's first and third shootout attempts, while Dany Heatley lost control of the puck on the second.
"Going into the Olympic break, it's important for us to have an understanding down the stretch that we can catch that team and that we're good enough to play against them," said Miller.
Buffalo's forecheck and defense was outstanding against the Senators, holding Ottawa's top line of Heatley, Alfredsson and Jason Spezza to just three aggregate shots on net.
"We played really well in the first period and came out pretty good in the second before they got a lucky goal to tie the game," said Vanek. "We sat back the rest of the period.
"Then we realized, we can play with these guys and came out flying in the third." Jochen Hecht
found Ales Kotalik with an across-ice pass at the left face-off circle for a one-timer and Buffalo's first lead against Ottawa this season at 12:11 of the first.
The goal came during four-on-four play after roughing penalties on Chris Kelly and JP Dumont. Kotalik's 21 goals this season ties the right wing's previous career high set during his rookie campaign in 2002-03.
"We're in a four game winning streak and we've played a lot of good hockey," said Ruff. "This was a team that was ahead of us in the standings and we were looking to move up."
Bryan Smolinski tied the game four minutes into the second period. Miller lost sight of the puck behind the net and covered the right post as Smolinski slid the puck inside the left.
-------------------------------- SCORING REPORTS
| Super Stats
| Faceoff Comp
| Play By Play
| Shift Chart GAME BLOG:
1-0 (12:11): Jochen Hecht
finds Ales Kotalik with an across-ice pass at the left face-off circle for a one-timer and Buffalo's first lead against Ottawa this season. The goal came during four-on-four play after roughing penalties on Chris Kelly and JP Dumont. The goal is Kotalik's 21st of the season. Hecht records the primary assist, while Toni Lydman gets the secondary. Period 2
1-1 (4:39): Bryan Smolinski swats the puck into a wide-open net as Ryan Miller
lost sight of the puck behind the net and covered the opposite post. The goal is Smolinski's 11th of the season. Peter Schaefer and Mike Fisher record the assists. Period 3
Fisher -- Dekes to the right, Miller makes the save. No Goal.
Kotalik -- Drills the shot down the middle. No Goal.
Heatley -- Miller dives out to knock the puck away. No Goal.
Vanek -- Circles around the puck to fake out Hasek. Goal.
Alfredsson -- Shoots top right, Miller gets his hand on it. No Goal.