BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Against all odds, the Buffalo Sabres continue to stay alive in the Eastern Conference.
The New Jersey Devils, meanwhile, are seeing their playoff chances start to slip away.
Despite being outplayed for long periods -- and outshot 39-26 overall -- the Sabres found a way to come away with an ugly victory Sunday night at the First Niagara Center, beating the Devils 3-2 in a shootout.
"We survived and got two points," Sabres goalie Ryan Miller said. "Not pretty, but it's two."
It was the third win a row for the Sabres, who continue to show some fight after trading their captain, Jason Pominville, at the trade deadline for a package of prospects and draft picks.
Steve Ott and Patrick Kaleta scored in regulation for the Sabres, who improved to 16-17-6 and are four points out of the final playoff spot in the East. Miller had 27 saves and didn't allow a goal in the shootout.
It was the seventh loss in a row for the Devils (15-14-10), who now sit in a tie for ninth place, two points ahead of Buffalo and two points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.
Nathan Gerbe, shooting second for Buffalo, was the lone scorer in the shootout. He skated patiently up the ice before putting a wrist shot past Devils goalie Martin Brodeur.
The game was anything but pretty for Buffalo. The Devils dominated puck possession in the Buffalo zone over a 15-minute stretch that carried over from the end of the first period to the opening 10 minutes of the second, making large sections of the game look like a New Jersey power play.
But the Sabres persevered with timely goals and strong goaltending from Miller.
"Resilient, basically, is what it was," Sabres interim coach Ron Rolston said. "Even in those times where we did have some lulls in our game I think everybody was still saying the right things and we knew what we had to do. It was just getting out there and a couple of shifts in a row just trying to make a difference and I thought we did a good job there just trying to get through that."
Steve Sullivan and Mark Fayne scored for the Devils. Brodeur had 24 saves. Sullivan, Patrick Elias and Travis Zajac came up short in the shootout for New Jersey.
The level of concern is high among the Devils, who are in danger of missing out on the postseason after winning the Eastern Conference one year ago.
"It's high. It's really concerning that we can't just win. That's the bottom line," Brodeur said. "We played one of the teams that we should beat today, and I thought we deserved to beat them the way we played."
Buffalo got on the board first after a poor New Jersey giveaway. Devils defenseman Andy Greene's ill-advised breakout pass up the middle of the ice was intercepted by Buffalo's Jochen Hecht, who fed Kaleta for a tap-in. It was Kaleta's first goal of the season, and his first tally since Feb. 12, 2012 (a span of 53 games).
New Jersey turned up the pressure late in the first period and was rewarded with a power play goal from Sullivan at 18:40. Steve Bernier intercepted Tyler Myers' clearing attempt along the end boards and fed Sullivan in front of the Buffalo net for his sixth of the season.
After a flurry of offensive activity from the Devils in the first half of the second period -- and poor defensive play from Buffalo -- the Sabres took a 2-1 lead against the flow of play on Ott's eighth goal of the season. Ott blasted a one-timer from the slot at 13:44 after a feed from Cody Hodgson.
Fayne tied the game at 2-2 on a shorthanded goal 5:46 into the third period. Following a strong rush up ice and behind the Buffalo net from Dainius Zubrus, Zubrus fed Fayne at the right point and the defenseman's wrist shot beat Miller on the blocker size for Fayne's first goal of the year.
The Devils were unable to find the clincher in regulation despite outshooting the Sabres 13-7 in the third period.
"I think for the most part, we played really well," Devils forward Dainius Zubrus said. "We need more goals and we need to score because we have the opportunities. These games are close and we find a way to lose instead of winning. It's frustrating, of course, because I know where we are in the standings -- we all do. We feel like we deserve to get a bounce here or there but it hasn't gone that way."
NOTES: Sabres leading scorer Thomas Vanek missed his sixth game in a row with an upper-body injury. Vanek is hoping to return for Buffalo's next game on Tuesday at Winnipeg. Vanek has 33 points (16 goals, 17 assists) in 29 games. ... In addition to Vanek, Ville Leino (upper body) was scratched for the Sabres. ... Henrik Tallinder, Peter Harrold, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Matt D'Agostini and Krystofer Barch were scratched for the Devils. ... Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk continues to be out with a shoulder injury he suffered on March 23. ... This was the third and final meeting between the Sabres and Devils. The teams had split the two games leading up to Sunday's game. ... This was the 139th game all-time between Buffalo and New Jersey. Prior to Sunday, Buffalo led the series with a 70-45-23 record
By Mark Ludwiczak, The Sports Xchange
Publish Date: April 7, 2013 11:52:24 PM
Sabres win third straight, stay in playoff hunt
|All Times Eastern|