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Shootout win over Devils gives Sabres third straight victory

The SportsXchange

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Slowly but surely, the Buffalo Sabres are beginning to show some resiliency under interim coach Ron Rolston.

The Sabres persevered to defeat the New Jersey Devils 4-3 in a shootout at First Niagara Center on Saturday afternoon. Buffalo (9-12-1) is now on a season-best three-game winning streak after struggling for much of the season.

"We're getting more resilient as a team now, and I think that's a good sign for us in terms of the mindset of our players," said Rolston, who took over for Lindy Ruff on Feb. 20. "When I first got here, if we would have given up the third goal it might have been a different result. Right now we're getting to be more resilient to find ways to win games instead of finding ways to lose games."

Jason Pominville and Tyler Ennis scored in the shootout for the Sabres.

Pominville, Buffalo's first shooter, beat Devils goalie Johan Hedberg with a wrist shot to Hedberg's left. Ennis, Buffalo's second shooter, beat Hedberg with a wrist shot to the goalie's right.

It was a big game for Pominville, who stepped up when his team needed him the most. With leading scorer Thomas Vanek out of the lineup due to an upper-body injury, the Sabres' captain had two goals in regulation to go with his shootout strike. Pominville bounced back from a scoring slump that had seen him go without a point in 10 of the previous 11 games.

"Especially with (Vanek) out today, that was huge," Rolston said.

Jochen Hecht also scored for the Sabres. Ryan Miller had 28 saves.

Ilya Kovalchuk and Adam Henrique came up short in the shootout for New Jersey, which fell to 10-6-5. Henrique, Andrei Loktionov and Steve Bernier scored for New Jersey. Hedberg had 20 saves.

"We were getting pucks to the net; we were keeping things simple," Henrique said. "We were sticking to our game plan. We battled back in the third. We took it where we got a point, but we need to try to find a way to get that extra one."

New Jersey has now lost four games in a row, but it wasn't for a lack of effort against the Sabres. The Devils outshot the Sabres 31-23 and played well for much of the game.

"I think any time you have these three-point games, you get a point, you've got to find a way to take the positives," Devils winger Ryan Carter said. "We got some goals on the board. Maybe clean a few things up defensively, and you get two points. I think we're figuring it out again and things are going in the right direction."

The shootout came after the teams traded goals on three occasions in regulation.

The Sabres took their second lead of the game midway through the third period on Hecht's first goal of the season, but the Devils quickly responded with 8:44 remaining on Loktionov's third goal of the year to tie the game at 3-3. Loktionov beat Miller after some pretty passing in the Buffalo end from Henrique and Stefan Matteau.

Henrique scored on a shorthanded breakaway to give New Jersey a 2-1 lead 1:21 into the third, but Pominville answered for the Sabres just under two minutes later. Pominville, who was beaten by Henrique on the New Jersey goal, tied the game following a cross-ice pass from Cody Hodgson.

The Devils dominated the flow of play through the first two periods, outshooting the Sabres 26-14.

Pominville got the Sabres on the board first with a shorthanded goal 7:17 into the second period. Pominville scored from the right circle after some nice forechecking from Hodgson.

The Devils quickly struck back 9:24 into the second when Mark Fayne's shot from the point deflected off Bernier into the Buffalo net.

The Sabres hope they can take some momentum into a four-game road trip coming up. Buffalo has won three games in a row after losing its previous four, with two of those wins coming in shootouts.

"It's a small sample size ... but the way this season kind of started for us, I think we know that there's adversity and we have to make the plays," Miller said. "Guys have to execute to win games. ... Execution's key right now and I think guys are starting to understand that."

NOTES: Devils goalie Martin Brodeur missed the game with a sore back. He is eligible to return from the injured list Monday. ... Thomas Vanek, Buffalo's leading scorer, missed the game with an upper-body injury. He is not expected to miss an extended period of time. John Scott and T.J. Brennan also were scratched by the Sabres. ... Buffalo forward Brian Flynn played in his first NHL game; he was called up from the Rochester Americans with Vanek out. Flynn has 32 points (16 goals, 16 assists) in the AHL this season. ... Peter Harrold, Krystofer Barch and Anton Volchenkov were scratched by the Devils. ... This was the first of three games between the teams this season. Heading into Saturday's game, the Devils led the all-time series 48-40-17.
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