Miller, Sabres blank Capitals 3-0
Miller made 35 saves for his 16th career shutout, Nathan Gerbe(notes) scored his first NHL goal, and the Buffalo Sabres halted Washington’s six-game winning streak with a 3-0 victory over the league-leading Capitals on Wednesday night.
Ovechkin, the league’s second-highest goal scorer with 20, was held without a point for only the fifth time in his 23 games. The Capitals (19-6-6) were shut out for the first time this season—and the first time since a 3-0 loss to Columbus exactly 11 months earlier.
“It took everybody to put an emphasis on getting back,” Miller said. “We picked up sticks a lot, and Ovechkin had to really go to the outside a lot. He likes to create and make space for himself, but he had somebody right down his back. That makes it frustrating, and it makes it tough.”
Miller, owner of the NHL’s lowest goals-against average, certainly did his part to make it tough on a Washington offense that came in with a league-high 108 goals. He stopped 13 shots in the third period.
He preserved his fourth shutout of the season when he robbed Brendan Morrison(notes), who was staring at a wide-open net, with a diving glove save along the ice with 13 minutes left. Miller then snagged Nicklas Backstrom’s(notes) shot from in tight 4 minutes later.
Morrison hit the post with 4:45 to go.
“Those were two jaw-dropping saves,” said defenseman Steve Montador(notes), who scored a first-period goal. “There were stretches in the third where we probably could have done a better job, but at that time of the game we had dominated and done a good job of limiting their top line.”
Gerbe added an assist, and defenseman Henrik Tallinder(notes) also scored for the Sabres (17-9-2), who snapped a two-game losing streak. Buffalo bounced back from being Martin Brodeur’s(notes) NHL record-tying 103rd shutout victim two days earlier against New Jersey.
“We all knew what was at stake,” Miller said. “You can’t lose three in a row and call yourself a top team. You have to keep pace with the big teams, and we got back on our feet.”
Washington took its first regulation loss in nine games.
“They just played solidly defensively,” Ovechkin said. “But I think we didn’t play our game, at all. We didn’t get the puck in deep, and we didn’t control the offensive blue line. I had a couple of chances, especially in the first period, but I just missed the puck and missed the net. It happens.”
“They played a very disciplined game,” Morrison said. “We kept trying to beat guys at the blue line, but they basically put up a wall there and we were turning pucks over.”
Montador opened the scoring with his second of the season 4:06 into the first period. From the right point, Montador’s shot skipped past Theodore, who was screened by Gerbe.
Gerbe made it 2-0 with 5:18 left in the second when he banked in a shot off Theodore’s pads while standing to the left of the post behind the goal line.
Tallinder pushed Buffalo’s lead to 3-0 with his second of the season 3:16 later. Lugging the puck through the neutral zone, Tallinder wristed a high shot from the high slot that Theodore stopped, but the rebound popped back to Tallinder, who swatted it in.
“Our guys did a heck of a job playing the highest scoring team in the league,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “We took a lot of ice away from (their) key personnel. There was a lot to like with the way we defended.”
NOTES: Washington D Brian Pothier(notes) didn’t play the last half of the game because of an undisclosed injury. … G Michal Neuvirth(notes) was Theodore’s backup after being recalled from Hershey of the AHL. … The Capitals also recalled C Keith Aucoin(notes) from Hershey hours before the game to replace C Mathieu Perreault(notes), who was sick. … Gerbe played in his first game after being recalled earlier Wednesday from Portland of the AHL. … The Sabres were without D Chris Butler(notes) (ankle) and RW Mike Grier(notes) (personal). … Washington is in the midst of playing nine of 11 on the road (10-4-3). … It was only the third time this season the Capitals trailed after the first period.