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by Rob Crean / Buffalo Sabres

30 SVS, SO

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - Ryan Miller stopped 30 shots for his fifth shutout of the season in leading the Buffalo Sabres to a 2-0 victory over New Jersey that all but ended the Devils' playoff hopes Saturday night.

Nathan Gerbe and Thomas Vanek scored first-period goals to help the Sabres won their third straight and maintain their hold on eighth place in the Eastern Conference. Miller earned his 22nd career shutout and second in three games.

Just as important, the Sabres (38-28-9) stayed at least three points up on Carolina, and stayed two points back of the New York Rangers, who beat Boston 1-0.

The Devils were shut out on consecutive nights - and for the third time in five games - following a 1-0 shootout loss at Pittsburgh. They've gone 173:55 without scoring a goal. ...more

The Sabres are 23-10-3 this season when they score the first goal of the game, and tonight, the first goal came from Buffalo’s hottest scorer, Nathan Gerbe.  With just over four minutes gone by in the first period, Gerbe grabbed the puck behind the net and threw it in front to Brad Boyes, who took a quick shot that didn’t quite get through to Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur.  The puck kicked out to the right face-off dot, where Gerbe collected it on his forehand and quickly fired a wrist shot that went in right underneath the crossbar to give the Sabres a 1-0 lead.  It was Gerbe’s 14th goal of the season and his fifth in the last five games. It was also his second game-winning goal of the five-game stretch.  The Sabres are 9-1-2 this season when Gerbe scores a goal.

For the second time this week, Ryan Miller backstopped the Sabres to a 2-0 victory.  With tonight’s 30-save performance, he now has five shutouts on the season, which ties his career-high.  He also notched five shutouts last year on his way to winning the Vezina Trophy, as well as during the 2008-09 campaign.  Miller has started each of the last six games and gone 4-1-1 during that stretch while posting a 1.50 goals against average, a .949 save percentage and two shutouts.  For the season, Miller is 33-21-8 with a 2.55 goals against average and a .916 save percentage.

- The Sabres have gone 11-3-3 over their last 17 games dating back to Feb. 23. Tonight’s victory also gives them their second three-game winning streak of the season.

“We're not going to be happy so to speak, I guess, until the job is done. The funny part about hockey is once the job is done it continues. I think we’re playing a brand of hockey with a little bit more awareness now. I think we’re doing a good job supporting each other and playing together." - Sabres Goalie Ryan Miller
- Prior to the game, GM Darcy Regier told the media that defenseman Jordan Leopold would be out “for an extended period” after suffering a hand injury in Friday’s win over Florida.  He added that Leopold is scheduled to visit a hand specialist on Monday to further evaluate the injury. 

- Steve Montador returned from a lower body injury to take Leopold’s spot in the lineup and logged 18:12 of ice time. 

- After being held to just three goals in his last 14 games and going scoreless in the last five games, Thomas Vanek scored his 26th goal of the season. 

- Jochen Hecht returned to the lineup after missing nine of the last 11 games to injury, including each of the last five, and registered two shots in 14:29 of ice time.

- Jason Pominville assisted on Vanek’s goal, giving him three points (1-2-3) in the last two games.

- Tonight’s game marked the conclusion of Buffalo’s fourth and final set of back-to-back home games on the season.  The Sabres went 5-1-2 in those eight games.  This weekend’s sweep of Florida and New Jersey was Buffalo’s first sweep of a home back-to-back this season.

- Tonight’s attendance of 18,690 marked the 10th consecutive sellout at HSBC Arena.

- Patrick Kaleta (bone bruise in leg) and Patrick Lalime (knee) remained sidelined for Buffalo. 

- Mark Mancari was returned to Portland (AHL) prior to the game as Hecht returned from injury.

- Defensemen Colin White and Anton Volchenkov and right wing Vladimir Zharkov were out of the lineup for New Jersey.

Two Northeast Division rivals will face off for the sixth and final time this season when the Sabres travel up to Toronto to take on the Maple Leafs on Tuesday.  The Sabres will look to clinch the season series with their neighbors to the north as they enter with a 3-2-0 record against Toronto through the first five meetings.  Buffalo won each of the first three matchups but have dropped the last two, with the most recent setback coming at the Air Canada Centre on Mar. 12 when they finished their seven-game road trip with a 4-3 loss to the Leafs.  Thomas Vanek leads the Sabres with five points (3-2-5) against Toronto this season while Ryan Miller has gone 2-2-0 with a 2.28 GAA against them.  At the conclusion of tonight’s game, the eighth-place Sabres and 10th place Leafs are separated by seven points in the Eastern Conference standings.

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