The Buffalo Sabres came into Prudential Center in New Jersey riding high off a commanding 4-2 victory over the Washington Capitals. The Devils returned home after suffering an embarrassing loss to the Carolina Hurricanes during which they allowed a goal to Canes’ goaltender Cam Ward. It was New Jersey who would get the win in this one by a 3-1 final score.
Both teams came out with a bunch of energy and seemed to trade chances throughout the first period. Both teams showed off their impressive penalty kills in the first period. Patrick Kaleta looked especially impressive blocking at least three Ilya Kovalchuk shots in one shift.Buffalocarried momentum in the middle of period, but New Jersey began to swing momentum as the period drew longer.
The New Jersey Devils struck first when three old favorites connected midway through the first period. Martin Brodeur started the play with an outlet pass to Patrick Elias at center ice. He entered the zone with Petr Sykora and left him the puck. Sykora’s return pass deflected off of Robyn Regehr’s skate, Ryan Miller’s pad and trickled over the line with Elias waiting on the goal line just in case.
New Jersey didn’t waste any time in the second period as Sykora scored his second of the night. Dainius Zubrus forechecked like a mad-man and forced Andrej Sekera and Robyn Regehr to cough the puck up to Patrick Elias. Elias feinted to the front of the net and passed across to Sykora who sniped it over the blocker of Miller.
It looked as though Buffalo struck back a few minutes later. Luke Adam tipped a Brayden McNabb shot home. They reviewed the play and decided that Adam knocked it in with a high stick. It was one of those plays that could have gone either ways and was a tough break for the rookie.
New Jersey took advantage of the disallowed goal and took a three goal lead. Mark Fayne took a shot from the point that was deflected perfectly by Zach Parise for his 12th of the season. Ryan Miller had no chance on the shot.
A minute later Buffalo’s tough guys got into the game. Cody McCormick jumped Eric Boulton and then Patrick Kaleta, Paul Gaustad, Andrej Sekera and Robyn Regehr supported their teammate with a big scrum. The “fight” itself looked more like a tackle, but the teams toughest players stepped up physically.
On the ensuing power play Thomas Vanek showed he doesn’t care how good your penalty kill is, he’s going to score. Vanek calmly collected a Jordan Leopold and threw it into the net. Drew Stafford was credited with an assist after missing a wide open net on the previous play.
Andrej Sekera went to the locker room with an upper body injury during the second period. He did not return to the ice. His status has not since been updated.
New Jersey was impressive denying Buffalo entry into their zone at the line cause tons of confusion. They were also good on the forecheck, often causing the Sabres to lose the puck coming out over their own blueline.
Martin Brodeur stopped 22 of the 23 shots he faced while Ryan Miller stopped 19 of 22 shots in the low scoring, low shooting game. Brodeur’s best stops came against Sabres’ leading scorer Jason Pominville. Miller was able to stop Adam Henrique and Zach Parise on breakaways at key moments.
Buffalo didn’t play poorly, but the were ultimately unable to win two games in a row. A feat they haven’t accomplished since November 12th. They return to action Friday, away against the floundering Washington Capitals at 7:00 PM Eastern time.