NEWARK, N.J. – The Buffalo Sabres are going into the NHL all-star break with smiles on their faces and much-needed hope for the second half of the season.
Jason Pominville and Nathan Gerbe scored in a shootout and Ryan Miller made 27 saves as the Sabres snapped a 12-game losing streak on the road and a five-game overall skid with a 2-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night.
“This is huge for us,” said Sabres defenceman Jordan Leopold, who scored in regulation. “The past few week have been tough and challenging and we capped off a long, long road trip with a win. It was not a perfect game. We got outshot and outchanced but in the end we got a couple of big saves from Ryan. He kept us in the game and we were able to win in the shootout.”
Buffalo, whose previous 12 road losses all came in regulation, also came close to losing this one, too, but in the shootout.
Ilya Kovalchuk gave New Jersey the lead in the shootout, snapping a shot past Miller on the first attempt.
Devils goalkeeper Martin Brodeur stopped Thomas Vanek and Brad Boyes on the Sabres first two attempts and it came down to Pominville after Miller stopped Zach Parise and Patrik Elias.
Pominville ripped a shot over Brodeur’s glove after deciding to change his shot halfway through his attempt.
“I was just trying to change the angle and I had plenty of time to take my time and it kind of went forward on me but I was so far away that I had time to settle it down and it wasn’t a big deal, I didn’t panic or anything,” Pominville said.
Miller made a pad save on rookie Adam Henrique on New Jersey’s fourth attempt and Gerbe gave Buffalo its first road win since Dec. 3 by beating Brodeur, allowing the Sabres to jump off the bench in joy.
“To finally win one, this allows us to feel good going into the break,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “This could have been a tough break if you walked into the break with even a shootout loss. This picks your spirits up and creates hopes. It’s the first time in a while the guys have felt good.”
Elias scored a power-play goal in the second period for the Devils, who have now lost three in a row.
“I thought we played really well,” said Brodeur, who only faced 14 shots. “I thought we dominated the game. The shot (differential) indicates that. Offensively, we couldn’t score goals. Miller played extremely well. They’ve been losing so much on the road and they finally got some breaks.”
The Devils had the first three shots in the overtime and each one was a quality scoring chance. Miller stopped Kovalchuk on a 2-on-1 just 25 seconds into the five-minute session and Henrique 15 seconds later. He also stopped Parise sweeping in from the right side with 90 seconds to go.
Pominville said the save on Kovalchuk in overtime was the best.
“The game should have been over and he got his glove on it somehow,” Pominville said.
Buffalo took a 1-0 lead in the first period. Gerbe ripped a shot from the top of the left circle that missed the net. The puck hit the glass behind the net and landed in the right edge of the crease for an easy tap-in by Leopold. It was his eighth of the season and his first in 10 games.
New Jersey tied the score midway through the second period on the second of two straight penalties against Derek Roy. Elias sent the puck to the right point for a one-timer by Kurtis Foster. Parise retrieved the rebound about 10 feet in front of the net and backhanded a pass to Elias in the right circle. Miller got his glove on the shot but it slid into the corner. It was Elias’ 18th goal and team-high seventh with the extra skater.
NOTES: D Peter Harrold made his Devils’ debut. He was signed as a free agent in August and spent the first half of the season with Albany of the AHL. …D Christian Ehrhoff returned to the lineup after missing 11 games with an upper body injury. The Sabres were 2-7-2 in his absence. …Sabres D Tyler Myers missed a shift after being hurt on Elias’ goal, but he returned and finished the game. Ruff said that Jochen Hecht was scratched with concussion type symptoms from a hit he took in St. Louis.