Buzzing on Yahoo Sports:

Leino scores in shootout as Sabres down Devils

The SportsXchange

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The bright spots for winger Ville Leino, a poster child for the underachieving Buffalo Sabres, have been few and far between.

Often ridiculed for his lack of production since signing a six-year, $27 million contract, Leino had not scored in regulation in a full calendar year when he entered Tuesday's game with the New Jersey Devils at First Niagara Center .

But something odd happened when Leino approached the puck in the ninth round of a shootout. The crowd roared. And Leino responded.

Leino beat New Jersey goaltendedr Cory Schneider, lifting the Sabres to a 3-2 shootout victory, and keeping New Jersey (32-28-16) from a crucial point as it watches the final wild card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference slip away.

With the loss, the Devils fell to 0-11 in shootouts on the season and they now have 80 points, meaning they failed to pick up any ground on Columbus (83 points) and they lost another to Toronto (82), which won.

Center Tyler Ennis had both of the goals in regulation as Buffalo (21-45-9) notched just its second win in 13 games. Right winger Dainius Zubrus and left winger Tuomo Ruutu scored for the Devils.

Sabres coach Ted Nolan, who signed a contract extension Monday, had a feeling the crowd might rally behind Leino, who entered the game with a dozen assists, but a goose egg in the goal column.

"I mentioned to (left winger) John Scott, I said, 'Watch the crowd go crazy on this one.' As soon as Ville jumped over, the crowd was good. The fans appreciate it," Nolan said. "He played a real good game for us tonight and we were running out of forwards. He's had a tough go. But he's a real good player. I'm glad to see him get one."

For Leino, the shootout winner was not his lone bright spot. In fact, his assist of Ennis' first goal was a picture-perfect pass that pulled the Sabres even at 1. He feathered a pass through that Ennis banged home for his 20th goal of the year. He also blocked a key shot late in regulation.

"He's a really good player and he's had some tough luck," Ennis said of Leino. "On my goal, the first goal, it was a great pass by him. It shows his talent level."

Ennis got a similar pass from Cody Hodgson just over three minutes later and converted again, tallying on the power play to give the Sabres a 2-1 edge.

Zubrus had not scored in 20 games and had mustered just a single assist in that stretch, but he gave the Devils the lead 8:16 into the second period after a nifty feed from right winger Michael Ryder.

After swooping in from behind the net, Ryder tossed the puck through the crease and Zubrus connected, although it appeared Buffalo defenseman Jamie McBain also clipped the puck as he tried to sweep it away. It was Zubrus' 11th goal of the year.

Ryder later had what looked like a sure goal when a rebound bounced to him on the left side of the goal, but 22-year-old rookie goalie Nathan Lieuwen, who was making just his third NHL start and first at home, made a spectacular save to keep the score close. Lieuwen finished with 33 saves, then stopped seven more in the shootout to get the win.

The Devils tied it in the third with a power-play marker as Ruutu got his seventh goal of the season, deflecting a snapshot by defenseman Andy Greene. The goal was originally credited to right winger Jaromir Jagr, but after review, Ruutu was given credit.

NOTES: The Devils kept LW Ryane Clowe home after he took a shot to the head in Monday's win over Florida, although team officials insisted the move was strictly precautionary. Clowe, who missed 32 games earlier this season because of a concussion, had six points in the last six games. Mike Sislo was called up from Albany, where he was leading the team's AHL affiliate with 23 goals and 16 assists in 57 games, to fill Clowe's spot. C Tim Sestito took part in the morning skate but was held out again. Sestito suffered concussion symptoms after taking a hit to the head on March 20. ... Aside from Clowe and Sestito, other scratches for the Devils were R Stephen Gionta, D Bryce Salvador, D Anton Volchenkov and D Jon Merrill. ... Buffalo LW Nicolas Deslauriers has yet to put up a point in 12 games with the Sabres, but he scored one in the family department this week. He sat out Tuesday after his wife gave birth on Monday. "He's a proud papa and he didn't have too much sleep last night," Sabres coach Ted Nolan said of Deslauriers. ... Also for Buffalo, C Torrey Mitchell, C Zenon Kenopka, D Alexander Sulzer and RW Chris Stewart were scratched.
Sign up for Yahoo Fantasy Football
View Comments (3)