BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP)—Buffalo rookie Thomas Vanek had something special for his shootout attempt against one of the top goalies in the world.
Utilizing what his coach Lindy Ruff said was an “around the world” move, Vanek beat goalie Dominik Hasek to give the Sabres a 2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators in a matchup of the two top teams in the Northeast Division on Saturday night.
Approaching the slot, Vanek moved his stick around the puck while faking a shot, then re-loaded and deposited a wrister into the top right corner.
“He’s such a good goalie that you have to do something different to beat him,” said Vanek, who also beat Hasek in a shootout in preseason. “There was a little bit of luck, but it still felt good.”
“I don’t know if he surprised me,” Hasek said. “I went to make a butterfly stop and went down. He shot it top shelf and my glove wasn’t there. It was a goal scorer’s move.”
“I tried to get the glove forward on him and not give him any angle,” said Miller, who has won seven of his last eight starts. “It’s not really a save, it’s more taking space away.”
Ottawa had owned Buffalo in its previous three meetings before Saturday, beating them in all three games by a combined score of 21-5. The high-flying game that many expected for their latest matchup didn’t materialize, but the intensity level didn’t disappoint.
“It was a playoff atmosphere tonight,” Vanek said. “Ottawa is a Top 3 team in the NHL. It’s a big win for us.
“It was a high-paced game, especially in the first period. Both teams knew the importance of it.”
Ales Kotalik scored in regulation for Buffalo, which won its fifth straight. Miller made 28 saves and extended his personal winning streak to five games.
“He gave our club a lot of confidence,” Ruff said of Miller.
Bryan Smolinski scored for the Senators, who have lost three of their last four games. Hasek finished with 26 saves, and has dropped two of his last three starts.
Hasek was making his second start in Buffalo after spending nine seasons with the Sabres beginning in 1992. In his first start while playing for Detroit in March 2002, he was pulled after allowing four goals in two periods.
Ottawa is now 8-7-1 since the beginning of the calendar year.
“We’ve been struggling since Christmas,” Hasek said. “We played a good game, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough for us to win it.”
Kotalik opened the scoring with his team-leading 21st goal at 12:11 of the first period while the teams were playing 4-on-4. Setting up at the top of the left circle, Kotalik one-timed Jochen Hecht’s cross-ice pass to beat Hasek.
Smolinski tied it at 1 with just over 15 minutes left in the second. Peter Schaefer outmuscled two Buffalo defenders behind the net, while Miller started moving to the left post. Schaefer was able to slid the puck to the opposite side, where Smolinski stuffed it into the open net.
Ottawa is now 2-1-1 when tied after two periods of play, while Buffalo improved to 8-2-1.
“It was a tight game,” said Heatley. “It’s just tough to lose in a shootout.”
The two teams will play four more times over a 22-day span starting on March 18 when they meet in Ottawa. … Senators D Brian Pothier returned to the lineup after missing the last two games with food poisoning. … Kotalik tied his career high of 21 goals originally set in 2002-03. … Ottawa was playing its fourth game in the last six days. … Senators enforcer Brian McGrattan immediately left the ice and didn’t return following a first period fight with Buffalo forward Andrew Peters. Senators officials said McGrattan’s right eye had swelled up.