Miller outperforms Weekes in Sabres victory
Blanks Devils to earn back-to-back shutouts for 1st time in NHL career
Kevin Weekes often looked like Martin Brodeur, performed like the future Hall of Fame goaltender and, in the end, was dealt a result experienced many times by his New Jersey Devils teammate.
Weekes, playing in place of the injured Brodeur, made 28 saves — including 19 in the first period — but was overshadowed by Buffalo counterpart Ryan Miller in a 2-0 loss Monday night.
Miller turned aside all 24 shots directed his way in recording back-to-back shutouts for the first time in his four-plus NHL seasons. He also became the first Sabres goalie to achieve the feat since Martin Biron in the 2002-03 campaign.
"Most of the time he [Miller] is the best player on the ice, pretty much every game," said Patrick Kaleta, who scored the insurance goal in the third period. "He comes to play every night and gives us a chance to win."
The Devils put forth a valiant effort to break Miller's shutout bid by pulling Weekes for an extra attacker with more than two minutes left in regulation but to no avail.
Miller, who stopped 29 shots in shutting out Washington on Saturday, was at his best in the second period when New Jersey had three power plays. He stopped three good point shots by rookie Anssi Salmela, two by fellow defenceman Johnny Oduya and a chance straight on by Zach Parise, who also had a good opportunity on a wraparound in the third period.
The Buffalo netminder also survived his own delay of game penalty late in the third for shooting the puck over the glass.
Earlier in the frame, Sabres defenceman Toni Lydman preserved Miller's ninth career shutout when he blocked a shot with the Devils enjoying a five-on-three.
New Jersey failed to convert the two-man and went 0-for-7 on the power play after beginning the day 28th among the NHL's 30 teams this season with a 13.3 per cent efficiency rating.
But the Devils, who saw their record slip to 6-3-2 after their fourth defeat in five games, were only in the game in the late going because of Weekes, who was making his first start since Jan. 5.
The 20 shots the career backup faced in the first period, thanks in part to five New Jersey penalties, were the most allowed in a single period by New Jersey on home ice in more than 15 years.
"I thought he [Weekes] made the difference early or we would have run away with the game," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "Kevin played a great game in the first period. He probably made I'd say seven quality saves and kept them in the game."
Buffalo had 17 scoring chances to New Jersey's one in the opening 20 minutes and made good on one of them by forward Jason Pominville.
"We didn't play at all in the first [period]," Devils centre John Madden said. "We stood around and watched and then the penalties. We didn't get anything going."
With the Sabres on the power play, he converted a cross-ice pass from Jaroslav Spacek, rifling a shot under the crossbar by a fallen Weekes with 34 seconds left on the clock.
"We moved the puck really well and Spacek made a great play," Pominville said. "He faked the shot and slid the puck over to me. I just had to one-time it in."
Earlier in the period, Weekes had stopped Pominville twice in close, Thomas Vanek in close on a power-play shot and Tim Connolly after a great rush up ice.
Kaleta made it 2-0 at 7:31 of the third period when he deflected Andrej Sekera's blue-line shot past Weekes.
Buffalo raised its season record to 5-0-1 when scoring the first goal and moved past Montreal (8-1-1) into first place in the Northeast Division with an 8-2-2 mark, but the Canadiens have two games in hand.
Brodeur, who left Saturday's 6-1 win over Atlanta with a bruised elbow, saw his streak of consecutive regular-season starts end at 51. It was only the 21st time in his career that he did not dress for a game.
Before Monday's game, Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello said the team was awaiting test results and gave no indication how long the 15-year veteran would be sidelined.
Sabres defenceman Craig Rivet returned to the lineup after missing five games with a knee injury.
With files from the Associated Press