Buffalo Sabres Earn Shootout Win Over Philadelphia Flyers, 2-1
The Buffalo Sabres won their seventh straight game and ninth straight on the road with a shootout victory over the Philadelphia Flyers tonight. In his first game back in a Sabres uniform since suffering a thumb injury in November, goalie Ryan Miller stopped 33 of 34 shots in regulation and overtime and then stopped 3 of 4 shooters in the shootout. The Sabres were outworked physically by the bigger Flyers throughout the first two periods but they started to wear down the Flyers defense in the third period. The first period was highlighted by two fights, with Philadelphia’s Josh Gratton involved in both of them. Gratton fought Andrew Peters first and then Adam Mair in the first period but neither fight was that eventful. The anticipated match up between Peters and Donald Brashear never took place. The Flyers got on the board first when Mike Knuble scored on the power play. Knuble was camped out on the goal line to Miller’s right when Peter Forsberg fed him a pass through the crease. Buffalo’s Chris Drury failed to clear Knuble out of the crease after his first shot was stopped by Miller. Knuble was then able to bang in his own rebound. Buffalo tied the game at 1-1 on a give-and-go between Paul Gaustad and Max Afinogenov. Gaustad started the play from center ice with a pass to Afinogenov who broke across the blue line and down the left side boards. Both Flyers defensemen moved towards Afinogenov who had the puck down at the goal line. Gaustad was left all alone breaking towards the net and Afinogenov fed him a perfect pass. Gaustad wasted no time firing the puck past backup goalie Antero Nittymaki. With Buffalo’s Rory Fitzpatrick in the penalty box for tripping for two of the final 2:07 of the third period, Philadelphia had a chance to go ahead on the power play. Miller made two key saves with less than 30 seconds on the clock to send the game into overtime. During the overtime period Buffalo had the man advantage but failed to score. While on that power play, Teppo Numminen hit the Flyer’s post with less than one minute remaining in OT. The Sabres ended the night 0-4 with the man advantage while Philadelphia went 1-6. Still tied at 1-1 the teams headed to the shootout. The Sabres sent out Ales Kotalik as their first shooter. Kotalik took his shot to the backhand but missed. The Flyer’s Jeff Carter fired a shot into Miller’s pads to keep it 0-0. Thomas Vanek made a nifty move to confuse Nittymaki but ended up hitting the corner of the crossbar. Peter Forsberg put the Flyers up 1-0 with a backhand that he slid along the ice between Miller’s pads. Miller got a piece of the puck that slowed it down but not enough to keep it out of the net. Tim Connolly kept the Sabres hopes alive when he roofed a backhand over Nittymaki. With the score even at 1-1 after Round 1 of the shootout the teams began sudden death shootout where one goal can win it. The Sabres sent out Max Afinogenov who put two different moves on Nittymaki and finally scored on a backhand shot that went in low on the stick side. Mike Knuble needed to score the keep the shootout going but Miller came out and poke-checked Knuble which sent the puck high over the net. The good news for the Sabres was the strong play of Ryan Miller in his first game back. Not only did he look sharp during regulation and overtime but he was poised and in control while stopping three of four breakaways in the shootout. Miller has very good fundamentals in net. If you watch him instead of the puck you will see that he is very aware of his position on the ice in relation to both the net and the puck. He doesn’t get out of position by overreacting to shots and he plays a very calm style of hockey. You can almost sense his confidence. Sabres GM Darcy Regier must have been happy to see how well Miller performed tonight. Regier can be confident that Miller is still his number one goalie which gives Regier a position of strength when other teams call to talk about a trade for Marty Biron. The Sabres now have two nights off before a mini road trip to Florida to play the Panthers and the Lightening on back-to-back nights Thursday and Friday.