The Sabres knew that tonight they were going up against the league leader- Washington had been riding a 6 game winning streak, and were looking to add #7 tonight at HSBC Arena. The Capitals were denied that chance and were instead on the wrong side of a 3-0 shutout win for the Buffalo Sabres.
Ryan Miller made 35 saves against the league-leading Washington offense, and recorded his 16th career shutout. That also ties him with Phoenix's goalie for the most shutouts this year, with 4. Jose Theodore was Washington's netminder, as Simeon Varlamov was injured prior to the game's start.
The game was evenly matched in every aspect of the game besides the scoreboard. Both the Sabres and Capitals had good offensive rushes and great defensive breakups. A few unlucky breaks for Washington's Ovechkin and others kept the game scoreless for the Capitals, and the Sabres were led by Miller's heroics between the pipes.
Buffalo started scoring in the first period with defenseman Steve Montador ripping a shot from near the blue line and past Jose Theodore to give Buffalo a 1-0 lead heading into the first intermission.
Nathan Gerbe of the Sabres' AHL affiliate Portland (ME) Pirates was called up for the game against Washington, and soon left his mark. Gerbe, drafted in 2005, scored his first NHL goal tonight in the second period, banking the puck off of Theodore and into the Capitals net. The celebration that ensued was fit for such an occasion.
The Sabres' final tally came from Henrik Tallinder also in the second period, and gave Buffalo the 3-0 lead that would remain through a scoreless third period and be the final score.
The Sabres' offense was out-shot 28 to 35, again exposing the problem that faces this Buffalo squad: generating offensive opportunities and putting shots on goal. Granted, the test against Washington tonight was incredibly hard, but overall, the Sabres' offensive statistics are far from stellar, and many of the W's that Buffalo owns are thanks to brilliant goaltending by Ryan Miller.
The Sabres are ranked 20th in the league, scoring only 74 goals in 28 games, with an average of about 2 and a half goals scored per game. However, Buffalo is a league-leader in goals allowed, only 62- tied with 1st and 2nd place New Jersey and Chicago.
While the offense did its job this game, the team cannot continue to rely on the defense to carry them. The offense must ignite, and sooner and rather than later.
Washington's Alexander Ovechkin was quick to write off the loss: "They just played solidly defensively...But I think we didn't play our game at all. We didn't get the puck in deep, and we didn't control the offensive blue line. I had a couple of chances, especially in the first period, but I just missed the puck and missed the net. It happens."
Sabres' head coach Lindy Ruff was pleased with Buffalo's effort, stating that "Our guys did a heck of a job playing the highest scoring team in the league. We took a lot of ice away from (their) key personnel. There was a lot to like with the way we defended."
With the 2 earned points, Buffalo recaptures the Northeast Division lead and the #3 spot in the Eastern Conference, behind (1) Washington and (2) New Jersey.
The Sabres' last game of their home stand is Friday, when Buffalo native Pat Kane and the Chicago Blackhawks visit HSBC Arena.
source for quotes: http://www.nhl.com/ice/recap.htm?id=2009020442