Kicking himself for giving up a soft goal, Miller was quick to celebrate when Briere scored less than a minute later and helped preserve Buffalo’s 6-4 season-opening victory over the New York Islanders on Wednesday night.
“It wasn’t very smart,” Miller said, describing how he allowed Alexei Zhitnik to score on a dump-in from center ice.
Coming out to play the shot, which appeared to be going wide of the net, Miller was fooled when the puck took a weird bounce and sneaked in through his legs.
“I was actually trying to be safe by playing it ahead of the line and I just kind of blew it,” added Miller, who stopped 22 shots.
The goal midway through the third period cut the Sabres’ lead to 4-3. Briere, however, responded 45 seconds later, banging in a rebound off Islanders defenseman Brent Sopel and over fallen goaltender Rick DiPietro.
“That’s the kind of leader we have in Danny right there, he’s not going to be rattled by anything,” Miller said. “It feels good. That’s why I’m smiling right now. I’m not going to be too hard on myself when we win.”
Miller, who got the start in place of incumbent Martin Biron, won his seventh career game and ended a four-game losing streak dating to Feb. 19, 2003.
Briere had two goals and an assist, Maxim Afinogenov scored twice, including an empty-netter, J.P Dumont had a goal and an assist and Brian Campbell also scored as the Sabres never trailed. Buffalo ended a seven-game losing streak against the Islanders, dating to March 7, 2002.
Zhitnik and forward Miroslav Satan were booed every time they touched the puck in their Islanders’ debut while playing against their former team.
“I’m wearing the wrong jersey, that’s the normal reaction,” said Satan, who spent seven-plus seasons in Buffalo before signing with New York last August.
“I’ll take it,” Zhitnik said, referring to his goal. “Whether you score from 10 feet, 50 feet or 200 feet, it’s OK.”
Islanders coach Steve Stirling credited the Sabres for playing more as a team in creating chances.
“We tried to carry the puck while they moved it and caught up to it with their speed,” Stirling said. “Our guys tried to do too much by themselves.”
The Sabres outshot the Islanders 39-26 and capitalized on two of 12 power-play chances.
After Buffalo squandered two one-goal leads, Campbell put the Sabres ahead 3-2 with 4 minutes left in the second period. Buffalo was pressing when Chris Drury got to a loose puck behind the New York net. Driving around the other side, Drury fed a pass into the high slot where Campbell snapped it in.
If not for DiPietro, the game could’ve gotten out of hand sooner. He stopped 24 shots through two periods, his best stop coming late in the first period when he dived across the crease and got his glove out to bat down Tim Connolly’s shot.
Islanders RW Arron Asham was scratched because of a rib injury. … Sabres D Dmitri Kalinin (groin) did not play. … Campoli’s goal was the first of his career and came in the first NHL game for the 2004 seventh-round pick. … Dumont has scored a goal in three of the Sabres’ last five season openers.