New Jersey at Buffalo

Miller perfect as Sabres blank dwindling Devils

CBSSports.com wire reports
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BUFFALO, N.Y. -- With Ryan Miller playing to perfection, the Buffalo Sabres are closing in on a playoff berth.

Looking once again like last year's Vezina Trophy winner, Miller made 30 saves for his fifth shutout of the season -- and second in three games -- in a 2-0 victory over New Jersey on Saturday that all but dashed the Devils' chances of making the playoffs for a 14th straight season.

The Sabres (38-28-9), by comparison, have opened ground in what's been a tightly contested Eastern Conference race. In winning their third straight and improving to 4-0-1 in their past five, eighth-place Buffalo moved five points up on Carolina and crept within two points of Montreal and the New York Rangers.

Eastern Conference
SeedTeamGPPTSROW
1z-Pittsburgh487233
2y-Montreal486326
3y-Washington485724
4x-Boston486224
5x-Toronto485726
6x-N.Y. Rangers485622
7x-Ottawa485621
8x-N.Y. Islanders485520
Eliminated
9o-Winnipeg485122
10o-Philadelphia484922
11o-New Jersey484817
12o-Buffalo484814
13o-Carolina484218
14o-Tampa Bay484017
15o-Florida483612
Complete Playoff Race >>

With two weeks left in the season, don't ask Miller to start looking too far ahead just yet.

"I'm happy with our progress. We're on the right path," Miller said. "But I'm not going to be happy so to speak until the job's done."

He's done his part in having allowed only eight goals in his past five starts, and coming off a 22-save performance in a 4-2 win over Florida a day earlier. And Miller's getting help from an offense that got off to a dominating start against a Devils team that's suddenly run out of steam.

Nathan Gerbe opened the scoring 4:17 in, and the Sabres held a 14-3 edge in shots when Thomas Vanek scored exactly 12 minutes later.

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.

"They weren't ready to play," Devils coach Jacques Lemaire said. "Guys are trying. They're getting chances. They're not scoring. You can excuse it to a certain limit. Not being prepared to play, that's different."

The Devils (34-36-5) haven't been able to sustain the second-half surge that allowed them to climb back into the race. After going 23-3-2, New Jersey is 1-4-1 in its past six games and has fallen 12 points back of Buffalo with seven games left.

"The last five or six games has put us into a big uphill battle, again," Patrik Elias said. "Right now, we're obviously having a tough time scoring, and you're not going to win a lot of hockey games that way."

In earning his 22nd career shutout, Miller played a big hand in adding to the Devils' frustrations. He was particularly sharp in stopping 10 shots in the second period.

Miller got his left pad out at the last moment to stop a puck Elias had redirected in front eight minutes in. A minute later, Miller got his right arm up to turn aside Travis Zajac's snap shot from the slot.

A few minutes later, David Clarkson had the puck all alone in front and eventually shot wide as Miller patiently held his ground without providing an opening.

"Right now he's in a good zone and playing well," Gerbe said of Miller. "He knows what's on the line and he knows he's the type of goalie that can steal games. And he's definitely done that for us."

Added Vanek: "When he gets hot, it's tough to get it by him."

Gerbe, with his fifth goal in five games, opened the scoring 4:17 in. Gerbe started the play by chasing down a loose puck behind the Devils net and feeding it in front to Brad Boyes, who got a shot off. Gerbe got the rebound and snapped it past Martin Brodeur.

Vanek scored by converting a rebound in front after Brodeur stopped Jason Pominville's hard low shot from the right circle.

The only negative for Buffalo was news it'll be without offensive defenseman Jordan Leopold, who will miss at least the final two weeks of the season after breaking his left hand against Florida. Leopold, who leads the team's defensemen with 13 goals, will learn more about the extent of the injury -- and whether surgery is required -- after he meets with a specialist Monday.

"Every team suffers blows. We suffered one," coach Lindy Ruff said. "We need someone to step in and play well. But there's areas of the game where he's definitely going to be missed."

Notes

  • Devils D Colin White and Anton Volchenkov are listed day to day with lower body injuries after both were hurt against Pittsburgh. D Jay Leach made his season debut after being called up from the minors while D Mark Fraser played after sitting out 17 games as a healthy scratch.
  • Sabres C Jochen Hecht returned after missing five games with an upper-body injury, while D Steve Montador returned after missing three games with a lower-body injury.
  • In finishing the season series with a 3-0-1 record, Buffalo beat the Devils three times in one season for only the second time. The only time Buffalo did that was a four-game sweep in 2000-01.
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
 
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Ryan Miller stops all 30 shots while leading Buffalo to a critical down-the-stretch victory over the Devils.  (Getty Images)
Ryan Miller stops all 30 shots while leading Buffalo to a critical down-the-stretch victory over the Devils. (Getty Images)

Scoreboard
New Jersey (34-36-5)0000
Buffalo  (38-28-9) «2002
Three Stars
R. Miller
BUF


Saves: 30
Save Pct.: 1.000
N. Gerbe
BUF


Goals: 1
Assist(s): 0
J. Pominville
BUF


Goals: 0
Assist(s): 1
Scoring Summary
1ST PERIOD
04:17 - Nathan Gerbe (14), Wrist Shot. Assist: Gaustad, Boyes
16:17 - Thomas Vanek (26), Wrist Shot. Assist: Pominville, Connolly
2ND PERIOD
None
3RD PERIOD
None
Penalty Summary
1ST PERIOD
None
2ND PERIOD
16:27Ennis, 2 min, Tripping
18:01Elias, 2 min, Boarding
3RD PERIOD
02:52McCormick, 2 min, High-Sticking
07:17Tallinder, 2 min, Tripping
Shots On Goal
 123T
NJ9101130
BUF167528
Goalies
GoalieMINSSGA
Martin Brodeur59:19262
Ryan Miller60:00300
Game Information
Attendance - 18690
Referees - Rob Martell, Don Van Massenhoven
Linesmen - Tim Nowak, Tony Sericolo
 
Other Games
NYR 1 Final
Bos 0
Colo 1 Final
LA 4
TB 4 Final
Car 2
Tor 2 Final
Det 4
Wash 2 Final
Mon 0
Phi 4 Final
NYI 1
StL 6 Final
Min 3
Dal 2 Final
Nash 4
Ana 2 Final
Chi 1
SJ 4 Final
Pho 1
Cal 5 Final
Edm 4