Ryan Miller’s amazing blocker save on sniper Marian Gaborik, combined with three points from rookie Tyler Ennis, helped the Buffalo Sabres clinch the Northeast Division title in a 5-2 win over the New York Rangers on Tuesday night.
The key point in the game came midway through the second period, when Brandon Dubinsky found Gaborik on a cross-ice pass on a two-on-one. Gaborik quickly snapped the puck at a wide-open net, but Miller pushed across the crease and deflected the puck away with his blocker.
“That’s the big part of the game,” Rangers head coach John Tortorella said after the game. “We have an open net, Miller makes a great save and then we just have a God awful change and they score their fourth goal.”
Miller finished with 30 saves.
The Rangers were 5-0-1 in their last six games heading into the game with Buffalo, and were looking to grab the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference, but they were no match for the Sabres’ offensive rushes.
Henrik Lundqvist was pulled for the sixth time this season, after Sabres forward Jochen Hecht beat him on his glove side with the 6’8” Tyler Myers screening in front. Lundqvist allowed three goals on 16 shots.
“I was surprised,” Lundvist said of being pulled at 5:17 of the second period. “But at the same time it’s up to John, so I just have to deal with it. I want to play, but it’s his call.”
The Sabres benefited from a defenseman constantly joining the rush throughout the game.
“They’re probably one of the better teams in the league to join the rush like that and to make a good play when they enter the offensive zone like that,” Lundqvist said.
The Sabres were missing stars Tim Connolly and Thomas Vanek again, along with captain Craig Rivet, but Ennis picked up the slack.
Ennis scored the third goal of his career in the third period to put the game on ice for Buffalo. Ennis’ three-point night gives him seven points in six games since being called up on March 27.
Steve Montador played arguably his best game since joining the Sabres at the beginning of the season. He received over 21 minutes of ice-time for just the third time this season and had just his second multi-point game with two assists.
Drew Stafford snapped a 17-game goalless drought when he beat Lundqvist five-hole on a first period wrist shot. He also assisted on Toni Lydman’s second period goal, shortly after Miller’s big save on Gaborik.
It was a big statement game for the Sabres, who snapped their two-game losing skid and clinched the Northeast division for the sixth time in franchise history.