BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP)—The Minnesota Wild went back to defense.
Last season, Minnesota rode Fernandez’s goaltending and a suffocating defense to the Western Conference finals.
The Wild didn’t dominate the neutral zone Tuesday, but they kept the Sabres’ shooters to the outside most of the night, giving Fernandez ample opportunity to make saves.
“Tonight we really beared down defensively,” Fernandez said. “There wasn’t any two-on-ones or three-on-ones all night. We battled hard and we’re happy the way we played.”
The Wild won twice on their three-game road trip. Buffalo, meanwhile, was playing its first game at home following a 4-2-0 road trip.
“Before this road trip we knew it was going to be tough,” Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said. “But we knew it was going to be tough for Buffalo tonight because when you come back from the road it’s hard to get going.”
Minnesota went 2-for-4 on the power play and scored while down a man in perhaps its best performance of the young season.
“We were happy that (Buffalo) had a little letdown, but you have to give us some credit as well,” Walz said.
Walz’s short-handed goal at 17:24 of the first period made it 1-0, and Daigle added a power-play goal in the second when he rocketed a one-timer from the top of the right circle past Martin Biron for his team-leading fourth goal of the season.
The top pick in the 1993 draft signed with the Wild at the end of September.
Brunette scored his first goal of the season early in the third period on a power play, deflecting a slap shot from the blue line by Travis Roche.
“Special teams are always important every game,” Daigle said. “We buried two power-play goals and that made the difference.”
“It was a frustrating night on special teams,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “We had a lot of perimeter shots but didn’t create a lot of opportunities.”
Coming into the game, Fernandez was ranked No. 32 in the NHL with a 3.02 goals-against average.
“Statistics are never allowed in this locker room,” he said. “As a team we all need some catching up to do.”
Pascal Dupuis played his first game of the season for the Wild after signing a three-year contract Sunday. Dupuis, Minnesota’s second-leading scorer last season with 48 points, played just under 12 minutes and had one shot on goal.
“Conditioning-wise I felt good,” he said. “Tonight it was more of a timing thing, but things will work out.”
Minnesota again played without its leading scorer from last season, Marian Gaborik, who is holding out because of a contract dispute. Talks between the Wild and Gaborik broke off Monday with the sides nearly $4 million apart on a proposed three-year deal.
“Pascal gave us everything that we expected,” Lemaire said. “He gave us a lot of energy at even strength and gave us some chances on the power play.”
Buffalo had its three-game winning streak snapped, and Chris Drury failed toregister a point for the first time in seven games.
The Sabres honored former player Rob Ray with a pregame ceremony. Ray played 13 seasons with Buffalo before he was traded to Ottawa last March. Now he is part of the Sabres’ television broadcast team. … Minnesota C Sergei Zholtok missed his third game due to a heart problem. Zholtok fainted in the second period Oct. 21 against Calgary. … Minnesota placed forward Brent Burnson the injured list with a separated right shoulder.