Henrik Lundqvist came out on top in a duel of goalies, stopping 34 shots through overtime and four of five in a shootout in the New York Rangers’ 1-0 win over Ryan Miller and the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night.
Ryan Callahan scored the decisive goal by driving in on Miller, faking right and then snapping a shot in the open left side as the Eastern Conference-leading Rangers bounced back from a 4-3 shootout loss at New Jersey a day earlier.
Marian Gaborik was the only other Rangers player to beat Miller, doing it in the first round of the shootout.
Miller stopped 29 shots in regulation in a game in which both goalies were credited with shutouts. For Miller, it was the 24th of his career, though he was denied an opportunity to set the Sabres’ franchise record for victories.
Miller is stuck on 234 wins, tied with Dominik Hasek.
Lundqvist earned his sixth shutout of the season and third in five starts, a stretch in which the All-Star has allowed only five goals. The shutout was the 41st of Lundqvist’s career, which moves him into second on the team’s all-time list – one ahead of Dave Kerr and eight behind Ed Giacomin.
Except for allowing Pominville’s goal, Lundqvist was unbeatable. His best saves before the shootout came with 1:09 left in regulation, when he kicked aside both shots from Brad Boyes, who had found himself alone atop the crease during a power play.
He robbed Boyes again in the second shootout round. Driving to the net, Boyes faked left and caught Lundqvist leaning, before shifting to his right in an attempt to stuff the puck into the open side. Lundqvist, however, recovered in time by reaching back with his glove to block the shot.
The Sabres were playing their first game at home following seven straight on the road. Buffalo, which lost the first five of those road games before beating New Jersey and Montreal, squandered a chance to win three straight for the first time since a four-game streak that ended Nov. 11.
The Sabres’ anemic power play went 0 for 5, including just one shot during a two-man advantage spanning 42 seconds in the first period. Buffalo has now scored three times on 32 power-play chances over its past 13 games.
Then again, the Rangers own one of the NHL’s stingiest penalty-killing units. They’ve now allowed just two goals on their opponents’ past 40 power-play chances over a 16-game stretch.
Miller’s best save came less than 2 minutes into the second period when he got his right pad out to stop Callahan, who was set up by Brad Richards’ blind backhand pass through the middle for a one-timer in the left circle. A few minutes later, Carl Hagelin was set up on the fly in front only to have Miller get enough of the puck to deflect it over the net.
Lundqvist was good but also got a few breaks.
In the second period, Sabres defenseman Robyn Regehr’s shot was partially blocked, but had enough momentum to float over Lundqvist and appeared to be heading into the net before defenseman Ryan McDonagh batted it out of the air with his stick.
Three minutes into the third period, Boyes had Lundqvist beat on a snap shot from the right circle only to have his shot go off the near post.
Much of the game was officiated with one referee and two linesman after referee Kelly Sutherland was struck in the face by a deflected shot 5:37 in and did not return. Sabres defenseman Jordan Leopold’s shot from the right point was deflected by a Rangers player in front and hit Sutherland, who was watching the play in the right corner. Sutherland kept his feet and didn’t appear to be cut, but was woozy as he was escorted off the ice.
NOTES: With Sabres LW Thomas Vanek missing his first game of the season, captain Jason Pominville is the only Buffalo player not to have missed a game this season. Buffalo was also without RW Drew Stafford (illness). … The Sabres play nine of their next 13 games at Buffalo. … The Rangers (32-12-5) are still behind when it comes to ranking their hottest start through 49 games, which came during their last Stanley Cup season in 1993-94, when they had a 33-13-3 record. …. With the NHL All-Star game out of the way and the trading deadline approaching on Feb. 27, there were 18 scouts representing 15 teams listed on the press box seating chart. The Rangers are carrying two healthy forwards, while the Sabres haven’t ruled out a potential shake-up as a result of their midseason struggles.