If the Long Island police decide to charge the Buffalo Sabres with felony robbery, it will be an open and shut case.
Thomas Vanek, Christian Ehrhoff and Alexander Sulzer scored goals while Ryan Miiller was sensational in net, making 41 saves as the Sabres held off the New York Islanders, 3-2 in a game Buffalo had no business leaving the ice victorious.
New York dominated on both ends for the majority of the contest, outshooting the Sabres, 43-15. However, Miller kept Buffalo in the game with spectacular saves and when he didn’t get a body part on the puck, the goal post saved him.
Meanwhile, Buffalo struggled offensively to find any rhythm, but were able to take advantage of limited opportunities with three pucks that made it past Evengi Nabokov.
But this game was all about Miller—and his team knows it.
“I guess we put our ski masks on and get out of here—Ryan Miller stole us one.” Sabres forward Steve Ott said on MSG’s post game.
Buffalo opened the scoring at 9:11 of the first. Jordan Leopold jumped into the offensive play and controlled the puck behind the New York net before sliding the puck out in front of Nabokov. As has been the case all season, Vanek won a battle in front and knocked in his 11thgoal of the season.
Despite having the lead, Buffalo was played horribly, particularly Christian Ehrhoff in his own end. It caught up to them in the final minute of the first when John Tavares put a loose puck into an empty net after Ehrhoff fell down with 42 seconds left. Miller made the initial save on a shot from Brian Strait, but Tavares stood all by himself on the rebound.
For Buffalo, it was pretty incredible they found themselves even after 20 minutes considering New York held a 15-4 shot advantage while skating freely all over the ice.
New York held a 25-9 shots advantage through 31 minutes but thanks to spectacular play by Miller, it didn’t change the scoreboard.
Buffalo finally took advantage of an opportunity at 12:21 of the second when Cody Hodsgon threaded a beautiful give and go pass inside the Islander blue line to a streaking Ehrhoff, who skated in alone and put a shot over Nabokov’s shoulder to give the Sabres a 2-1 lead.
For a second time, it was a lead Buffalo failed to keep—nor did they deserve to.
Buffalo defensemen Mike Weber lost a battle for the puck behind his own net to Casey Cizikas and Cizikas slipped the puck in front between Alexander Sulzer’s legs and onto the stick of Colon McDonald, who placed a shot past Miller at 17:35 for his first of the season.
The team’s went into the second intermission tied at 2-2 despite New York holding a 29-11 shots on net advantage.
Buffalo would net the eventually game-winner in the final period when Steve Ott fed Sulzer for a blast that Nabokov got a piece of with his glove but couldn’t control, and the puck trickled into the net at 7:35.
New York had plenty of chances over the next several minutes, followed by one last golden opportunity to tie the game when Tavares was hooked from behind by Ehrhoff on a breakaway with 3:53 left and rewarded with a penalty shot.
However, he hit the goal post, the second time in the third period it happened to him.
“I just didn’t put it in,” Tavares said on the MSG post game show. “I had it and I hit the post. I got the room that I needed.”
New York shot itself in the foot with just 1:20 left in regulation after former Sabre Brad Boyes got a hooking penalty. The Islanders pulled their goalie in the waning seconds but weren’t able to get the equalizer.
Vanek had an assist to go with his 11th goal and leads the NHL with 23 points. Cody Hodsgon assisted on Buffalo’s first two tallies.
It’s the second win in a row for Buffalo, who try to keep their winning ways going at the First Niagara Center tomorrow evening against the Boston Bruins.
Whether they do it with or without Tyler Myers remains a mystery. Lindy Ruff made Myers a healthy scratch against the Islanders.
Check back with us for updates and a game preview Sunday.