BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP)—Steve Bernier can stop worrying. The pressure is off now that he made his Sabres debut memorable.
Bernier scored goals on his first two shots and added an assist in sparking an 8-4 win over the Nashville Predators on Wednesday night, a day after being acquired in a deal that sent All-Star defenseman Brian Campbell to San Jose.
“When your confidence is not where you want it to be and the first shot you make you score, it helps,” said Bernier, labeled an underachiever during three seasons with the Sharks. “I’m glad everything went the way I wanted everything to go. … Yeah, it’s a good start, but nothing is done yet.”
Bernier snapped a 12-game goal drought, the longest of his NHL career, and enjoyed his fifth multigoal game.
Toni Lydman had a career high four assists, Ales Kotalik had a goal and two assists, and Derek Roy, Daniel Paille, Jason Pominville, Tim Connolly and Andrew Peters also scored as Buffalo snapped an 0-1-1 skid. Buffalo jumped into eighth place in the Eastern Conference, two points ahead of idle Philadelphia.
It was an important statement by a Sabres team that had the potential of unraveling after losing Campbell, a key player and team leader.
“To have a player step in and have as good night first night, it’s almost a dream come true,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said of Bernier.
Jason Arnott scored twice for the Predators, 0-2-1 in their past three games, including a 6-3 loss to Dallas on Saturday. David Legwand and Jan Hlavac, making his debut after being acquired Tuesday in a trade with Tampa Bay, also scored for the Predators.
Nashville, which kicked off a season-high, six-game road swing, entered the game in eighth place in the West, but lost ground when San Jose and Minnesota— both ahead of the Predators—won.
“It’s quite frustrating because the urgency has got to be there,” Predators coach Barry Trotz said. “We blew a chance to get points. By the time we get home, we might be out of the playoffs. We might be ninth.”
The Sabres broke the game open late in the second period when Pominville and Roy scored three minutes apart to put Buffalo up 6-3.
As blowouts go, it certainly proved entertaining, with Bernier’s performance one of numerous highlights in a game between teams in different conferences.
It was a game in which all four goaltenders played; featured a seven-goal second period; had the Sabres nearly squander a three-goal lead for the second straight game; featured a chippy third period with numerous fights; and had a penalty shot. Nashville’s Scott Nichol missed his second consecutive attempt this season.
The scariest moment came three minutes into the second period when Sabres goalie Ryan Miller was knocked woozy and had his nose bloodied after being struck in the mask by Marek Zidlicky’s shot. The force of the drive knocked loose the main metal bar that runs from Miller’s forehead to chin, and pushed it back on his nose.
With the tip of his nose swollen but not broken, Miller returned after missing about 8 minutes. He made 24 saves to preserve the victory.
“It was entertaining, no doubt,” said Miller, who wasn’t aware that Hlavac had converted the rebound.
Miller left with the Sabres up 3-1, and returned with Buffalo clinging to a 4-3 lead after backup Jocelyn Thibault allowed two goals on seven shots.
“Fortunately, we answered the call,” said Miller, who had to wait for a new cage to be attached to his mask. “I was anxious to get back out there, just get the bleeding stopped and go.”
Predators RW Brandon Bochenski, acquired from Anaheim on Tuesday, was scheduled to join the team at practice in Nashville on Thursday. … Roy extended his point streak to a career-best seven games (four goals, six assists). … Buffalo was the only city in which the 10-year-old Predators had never lost, going 3-0 with a tie in four previous visits.