The Sabres skated out of SAP Center at San Jose with a 5-4 shootout victory over the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday. Buffalo weathered the storm of two San Jose rallies to leave the Shark Tank with two points.
“Just to go on the road and play a team like San Jose and come in here and get two points is big for us. It’s our obligation now to build on that as a team,” Sabres coach Ron Rolston said. “I liked our effort tonight. It all goes back to that. It goes back to execution and effort. If we can do that in 60-minute spans, we’re going to win hockey games.”
Drew Stafford, Cody McCormick, Tyler Ennis and Henrik Tallinder were Buffalo’s goal scorers. Cody Hodgson capped it off with the deciding goal in the shootout.
Ryan Miller faced a career-high 51 shots in goal for Buffalo, stopping 47 of them through 65 minutes. He made three saves in the shootout as well. It was Miller’s 45th shootout victory, tying him with Henrik Lundqvist for most shootout wins in NHL history.
“It was exciting for sure. It was a fun game to play in but you never want to give up 50 shots,” Sabres forward Marcus Foligno said. “We know [Miller’s] always going to answer the door but at the same time, you have to like the work ethic, the skating out there. I thought a lot of guys had legs tonight and it was a fun hockey game to be in.”
Martin Havlat, Tyler Kennedy, Tomas Hertl and Tommy Wingels scored for the Sharks. Goaltender Antti Niemi made 32 saves.
The Sabres have now won five straight games against the Sharks for the first time since the Sharks joined the league for the 1991-92 season.
Buffalo focused on being more physical in their practice on Monday. It seemed like that preparation paid off.
“I think everyone tonight, you could tell the effort level from all the guys was there. The communication on the bench, you could tell guys were dialed into the game,” Rolston said. “I think it was a complete team effort tonight.”
The opposition opened the scoring, which has happened often against the Sabres this season. A point shot by Brad Stuart deflected in front of the net and to Havlat, who backhanded it in past Miller 8:48 into the game. The goal came seconds after Miller stopped both a rip from Logan Couture in the slot and the rebound by Dan Boyle.
Buffalo hung with the Sharks through the first 20 minutes, but still skated to the dressing room down 1-0.
The Sabres came out for the second period and found a way to take the lead early on.
Stafford scored 2:36 into the second period to tie the game. Buffalo converted on a turnover as Jamie McBain coasted down to the right faceoff circle and fed it to Stafford, who beat Niemi five-hole.
Then, as a scrum in the left corner of the San Jose zone was blown dead by the officials, Larsson and Tyler Kennedy exchanged some words and then dropped the gloves. Larsson was whistled for the first fighting major of his career at the 5:50 mark of the second.
Three seconds later on the ensuing faceoff to the right of Niemi, McCormick won the draw and the puck ended up to his right. McCormick stepped up and put a shot through Niemi’s five-hole to give the Sabres the lead. McCormick's goal was his first in his last 25 games. He last scored on March 27, 2012 in Washington.
Earlier on in the first period, Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers stood up to Sharks forward Mike Brown in the Buffalo crease. Myers was called for roughing while Brown went to the box for slashing. McCormick was impressed with the physicality both Larsson and Myers brought.
“Larsson and then even Tyler Myers, there’s two guys right in front of them,” he said. “It was an intense game. They didn’t back down and that’s what happens with an intense game.”
Foligno said those types of plays can help energize the team.
“When you see guys like that doing something, when they’re fighting and they’re not regular fighters, it gets the guys going and the way the compete level in the room right now is the right way,” he said.
After the Sabres had taken a 3-1 lead thanks to Ennis’ power-play goal 1:20 into the third period, the Sharks quickly roared back. At the 3:19 mark of the third, Kennedy scored to make it 3-2. Hertl scored 1:10 later to tie it.
The quick rally was reminiscent of the Buffalo’s last game against Anaheim on Saturday. The Ducks scored two quick goals and the Sabres never seemed to recover, losing the game 6-3. On Tuesday against San Jose, they found a way.
“Obviously you don’t want to relive those same moments, but I thought we did a great job going back, bouncing back and taking it right to the end,” Hodgson said.
Tallinder was vocal after the loss to the Ducks, stressing the fact that the team can’t become shell-shocked if things don’t go their way in a short period of time during a game. He seemed happier with how the team responded on Tuesday.
“We just wanted to play hockey, play a good, solid [game], the way we want to play. Don’t get down on ourselves because, yeah there were some mistakes out there from our side, but don’t get down after that. What do we do after the mistakes are made?” he said. “And I thought that was the biggest step in my eyes – to see what we did after the mistake and I thought we did it like nothing happened and we stood up for ourselves.”
Tallinder then scored to make it 4-3 with 7:28 to play in regulation. Tallinder has now scored in consecutive games for the first time since the 2005-06 season. He scored on Jan. 1, 2006 against the Panthers and again Jan. 5, 2006 against the Lightning.
The Sharks ended up tying it with 3:46 remaining on Wingels’ goal.
It looked like the San Jose may have won it in overtime, but a play in which the puck may have crossed the goal line was blown dead and never reviewed. The game ended up being decided in the shootout.
The Sabres can now look ahead to their game against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on Thursday and build on the win against the Sharks.
“We beat one of the best teams in the League, so we have to take everything we did out of this and bring it into the next game,” McCormick said.