Daniel Briere scored the lone goal in the shootout, Ryan Miller made 36 saves, including six in overtime, and Brian Campbell had a goal and an assist in the Buffalo Sabres’ 4-3 win over the New York Rangers on Friday night.
The Sabres (20-3-2) swept the four-game season series from the Rangers, and became the fifth team in NHL history to accumulate at least 20 victories through 25 games. Ottawa won 21 of its first 25 last season.
Three of the four games between the two teams went to overtime.
“You don’t want to get too ahead of yourself, but we’re playing to win as many games as we can,” Briere said. “We’re inching to our goal, inching closer to the playoffs.”
After Briere beat Kevin Weekes on a deke in the first round of the shootout, Miller blanked Michael Nylander, Brendan Shanahan and Petr Prucha to win for the fourth time in his last six starts.
“It was a hard-fought battle for a chance to win, and we got it,” Miller said.
Snakebit by the Sabres in overtime in their two previous meetings, the Rangers seemed destined to finally win the season-finale against the top team in the Eastern Conference, especially when Nylander’s power-play goal with just under 12 minutes left in the third period gave New York its first lead at 3-2.
But Chris Drury, who scored the overtime winner against the Rangers on Sunday, tied the game by cutting across the ice to backhand the puck past Weekes with about 10 minutes left.
In overtime, New York peppered Miller with four shots during a 4-on-3, but couldn’t get one past him.
“We did a good job of getting in the way,” Miller said.
Jochen Hecht also scored for the Sabres, who won their second straight.
Buffalo improved to 5-1 in games decided by a shootout, while the Rangers dropped to 3-1.
Michal Rozsival and Martin Straka also scored for the Rangers, who lost their third straight, all in overtime.
“A loss still feels like a loss, and it wasn’t a happy dressing room, but I liked a lot of things about our game tonight,” Shanahan said.
Straka was unavailable for the overtime after tweaking his hamstring late in the third. Rangers coach Tom Renney said Straka “will be fine.”
Down 2-1, Straka tied it at 7:20 of the third with a power-play goal, and 46 seconds later Nylander gave New York the lead.
Hecht, who just returned after missing three games with an inner ear infection, opened the scoring with his sixth of the year 17:09 into the first period.
Campbell made it 2-0 just under two minutes into the second, lifting a backhand from the lower right circle over Weekes’ left shoulder.
New York then began to pressure the Sabres, with Rozsival finally breaking through with his third of the season. Straka’s assist on the goal extended his point streak to six games.
Buffalo mustered only three shots in the second, tying a season-low.
Weekes, who was making just his sixth start of the season and third against Buffalo, finished with 16 saves.
“I’m happy we’ve been able to play them as many times as we have,” he said. “There are things we’ve taken from their game that we try to implement into our game. It’s helped us.”
The third period began under auxiliary lights after the building experienced a power surge that knocked out the main lights. Full power was restored about five minutes into the frame. The Buffalo area was experiencing high winds throughout the day and night.
Notes: Rangers forward Jason Ward missed his first game of the year with an ankle sprain. … Sabres C Derek Roy is still out because of a broken hand. He is expected to return Tuesday when the Sabres play at Tampa Bay. … Buffalo opens a season-long five-game road trip tomorrow in Washington. … Buffalo defenceman Toni Lydman played in his first game since sustaining a neck strain on Nov. 10 against Florida.