The Buffalo Sabres have drawn even with idle Washington in points (80) for the eighth and final playoff seed after dispatching the Montreal Canadiens 3-0 at the First Niagara Center tonight. With the shutout, Miller’s sixth on the season, Ryan has set a new single season career high.
The Sabres came out with the kind of energy they had just two days earlier in Tampa Bay, and the results manifested themselves on the scoreboard early on. After outworking a defender for a loose puck behind the Montreal net, Cody Hodgson attempted a wraparound that deflected off of Carey Price and into the net for his first goal as a Buffalo Sabre. Both teams traded chances for much of the first, but the Sabres were the only team on the scoreboard after the opening twenty minutes.
Buffalo ratcheted up the intensity another notch in the second period, controlling much of the play in the Canadiens zone. After a lengthy shift of having the Habs penned deep in their defensive territory, a point shot bounced onto the stick of Derek Roy whose backhand pass touched off of Ville Leino and right onto the blade of Jason Pominville who wasted no time beating Carey Price to extend the Sabres lead to 2-0.
Though the shots were virtually even (22-21 in favor of MTL) the Sabres were able to maintain a two goal edge because of the stellar play of Ryan Miller. Ryan was aggressively playing the angles tonight and the Sabres defense did a great job of clearing the shooting lanes for Miller to see the puck and then clearing away any potential rebound opportunities.
The third period played out very much the same as the previous two, with both teams getting excellent scoring chances, but only Buffalo capitalizing. The Sabres 20th ranked power play unit finally broke through against the Canadiens league leading penalty kill when Derek Roy’s pass from the corner found Cody Hodgson in front of the net for his second goal on the night, and second as a Sabre. It was a beautiful tic tac toe passing play between Thomas Vanek, Roy, and Hodgson who made no mistake burying the puck far side past Carey Price.
Cody Hodgson went into Monday’s game against Tampa Bay with zero points in his first ten games with the Sabres. In the two games since he has two goals, and two assists, and has generated a ton of scoring chances. It seems Cody has adjusted to the new system and is starting to show why he was the tenth player selected in the 2008 entry draft.
Hodgson’s second goal of the night put the Sabres up by three goals, but they never needed more than one the way Miller was playing tonight. Miller recorded his 28th career shutout, 6th this season (career high), and 3rd in his career against the Montreal Canadiens tonight. Ryan is now only 3 wins shy of 30 for the season, which would be 7th consecutive 30 win season.
With the win the Sabres now have 80 points and are tied in points with the eighth seeded Capitals. Washington has played one fewer game, and has more ROW wins than Buffalo, but the Sabres are putting the pressure on the Capitals to maintain their ground. Washington is idle tonight but plays in Philadelphia tomorrow. The Sabres and Capitals meet at the Verizon Center in Washington on Tuesday, 3/27.
Buffalo is off tomorrow but will take the ice at Madison Square Garden on friday against the New York Rangers, and with a little help from Philly they could be playing with an opportunity to pass Washington.
The Sabres will play again on Friday night against the New York Rangers at the Madison Square Garden. With a little help from Philadelphia, the Sabres could be playing for 8th place. The puck will drop at 7 PM and the game will be broadcast on MSG.