by Brian Wheeler
With a seemingly endless parade of players into the penalty box, the Sabres man-advantage unit didn't score often but notched goals when it was needed most. Buffalo's power play recorded a pair of goals on two great individual efforts to lead Buffalo to a 3-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Monday night.
"Our power play has gone so well that there are going to be times where it doesn't go well," said Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff following the win. "Edmonton did a good job with filling the lanes, a really good job with up-ice pressure which disrupted our breakout but we had anticipated that.
"I still think that at the end of the night, you score a couple power-play goals and win a game, it's pretty good."
Cutting between defenders with two great displays of stick handling, Tim Connolly and Maxim Afinogenov scored Buffalo's first two goals with the man advantage, while Derek Roy
added an some insurance midway through the third as Buffalo extended the team's winning streak to two games.
"There are some teams that are pretty aggressive killing penalties," said Ruff. "I thought Edmonton when they weren't aggressive did a good job of having people in lanes. We shot a couple of times from the point that they blocked."
Afinogenov and Roy's goals were retribution for earlier mistakes as each missed wide-open nets in the first period.
"That's the type of game that you worry it's going to come back to bite you when you miss those types of opportunities," said Ruff. "They took advantage of their early two-on-one and we didn't take advantage of the times they gave us some opportunities."
While the power play struggled against the Oilers, the Sabres penalty kill continued to thrive, holding Edmonton scoreless on five opportunities.
"We played a pretty good defensive game," said Ruff. "It was one of those strange games with a lot of power plays and penalty killing, and not a lot of even-strength time. Once they were in our zone, they didn't get inside very often."
Buffalo's penalty kill, which ranked second in the league heading into the game, hasn't allowed a power play goal in five games and has killed 25 consecutive power plays in that span.
Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller
was spectacular in his 13th victory of the season. The rookie finished the contest making 22 saves, including a sprawling save against Ales Hemsky on a breakaway in the second period.
"Miller made the key saves when we needed them," said Ruff. "That's all you can ask. It wasn't a night where he had to make 20 saves on great opportunities but he had to make three or four real good saves at key times in the game."
"He's young and it's tough to say, but I think he may be Top Five in the league as a breakaway goaltender."
The performance marked the eighth instance this season and sixth time in his last eight starts that Miller has allowed just a single goal. In his last six starts, Miller has a save percentage of 0.944.
Buffalo walked away from the opening game of a six-game roadtrip with an elusive victory at Rexall Place.
"I don't know what the record is, but it feels like forever since we won here," said Ruff, whose team hadn't defeated the Oilers in Edmonton since March 27, 1998.
Hemsky opened the scoring on a two-on-one break after Sabres defenseman Toni Lydman got caught pinching at the Sabres blueline. Hemsky broke in on Miller unmolested and snapped a wristshot over the netminder right pad to give Edmonton the 1-0 lead.
Connolly tied the game with less than three minutes remaining in the opening period with his first goal in seven games. Attacking the Edmonton zone on a four-on-three Buffalo power play, Connolly slashed between two defenders, cut to his forehand around defenseman Chris Pronger and snapped a wristshot between the legs of Edmonton goaltender Jussi Markkanen.
The goal was Connolly's fourth on the man advantage, ninth of the season and his fourth point in two games. Chris Drury received the secondary assist on the play to tie Connolly for the team lead with 37 points.
Buffalo failed to convert on five power-play opportunities during the second after seven penalties were assessed to the Oilers during the period.
With one second remaining in a Sabres power play from a double minor penalty on Jarrett Stoll for high sticking, Afinogenov gives Buffalo its first lead of the game. Cruising down the right wing, Afinogenov hits the brakes inside the right faceoff dot and fires five-hole for his 11th marker of the season.
Ales Kotalik picks up his second helper of the contest with the secondary assist on the play.
Roy one-timed Afinogenov's across-ice pass from the left faceoff dot to extend the Sabres lead to two with 13 minutes remaining in regulation. The tally snapped a 14-game drought for the center, who hadn't scored since December 16th at Pittsburgh.
------------------------------------- SCORING REPORTS
| Super Stats
| Faceoff Comp
| Play By Play
| Shift Chart GAME BLOG:
0-1 (3:35): On a two-on-one break, Ales Hemsky snaps a wristshot over Ryan Miller
's right blocker to give Edmonton the lead with their first shot on goal. The goal is Hemsky's 13th of the season. Jason Smith records the lone assist.
1-1 (17:38): Tim Connolly cuts between two players, cuts to his forehand around another and snapped a wristshot between the legs of Markkanen. The power-play goal is Connolly's fourth on the man advantage, ninth of the season and his team-leading 37th point. Ales Kotalik and Chris Drury get the helpers. Period 2
No Scoring Period 3
2-1 (2:23): With one second remaining on a Sabres power play, Maxim Afinogenov up the right wing, hits the brakes and fires five-hole to give Buffalo the team's first lead of the game. Thomas Vanek
records the primary assist, while Ales Kotalik gets his second assist of the game with his secondary.
3-1 (13:36): Derek Roy
one-times Maxim Afinogenov's across-ice pass from the left right faceoff dot for his fourth goal of the season. The tally snapped a 14-game drought for the center, who hadn't scored since December 16th at Pittsburgh. Afinogenov and Teppo Numminen record the assists.