NASHVILLLE, Tenn. – Mike Grier told his teammates between periods to continue to believe in the system even though the Buffalo Sabres weren’t scoring goals.
With 3:25 left to play Saturday night Grier’s belief was rewarded. He fired a shot from a few feet out and was able to retrieve the rebound and shoot again. That second effort beat Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne and gave the Sabres a 1-0 victory in their first road game of the season.
“Mike Grier, you are my hero,” Miller said. “Mike does a lot of things really well on the ice. He kept on telling us to trust the system and that we would get a breakthrough.”
The Sabres had 42 shots on goal against Rinne, making his first start of the season.
“We had a lot of opportunities to score,” Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. “There were a lot of pucks that went through feet, missed sticks and missed empty nets.
“Mike made a great first effort. But he got it back and made an even better second shot. That should be lesson for every kid who plays hockey.”
Grier downplayed the shot, calling it a lucky bounce.
“Rinne was a good wall,” Grier said. “As a team we have just been trying to throw the puck at the net as often as possible. We knew if we kept on doing it we would get the puck in the net.
“Tim Kennedy made a good play from behind the net. I had a nice first shot. I don’t know if it got to the net or if the defenceman tipped it. Luckily, it came right back to me.”
Rinne admitted he was just a half-second late.
“There was a lot of traffic and it was by me before I could get to it,” Rinne said. “They are a very deep team. They come at you with four guys at a time. They take a lot of shots and they create a lot of rebounds.”
Miller stopped 25 shots on his way to his first shutout of the season.
“My job on the road is to not get too high and to keep it tight,” Miller said. “Nashville has some breakaways late in the third when the ice was getting chippy. I was happy to be there when I was needed.”
Ruff and Predators coach Barry Trotz talk about the similarities between their systems. But Trotz was quick to point out that Ruff has made some changes in his team’s playing style.
“They really pressured and caught us on our heels, especially in the first period,” Trotz said. “They are pressuring down on your defence and they’re pinching with their defence.
“They had four lines that were really buzzing. They won more of the foot races, and because they were quicker to the puck, they were able to get out of the zone and attack. They were just better than us.”
The Predators have struggled to create any offence beyond their first line of Steve Sullivan, Jason Arnott and Patric Hornqvist. Trotz wants his team to emulate what they saw from Buffalo.
“When you’ve got a chance, you’ve to do it with speed,” Trotz said. “When they got a little breathing room they were going 100 miles an hour. We bring it down it down a gear when we bring the puck down the ice.
“Buffalo throws a lot of pucks to the crease area. If you mishandle one, they can burn you. And that’s what ended up happening.”
NOTES: Joel Ward played his first game of the season for Nashville after missing the first two because of a groin injury. … Rinne’s earned his first NHL shutout against the Sabres in Buffalo on Dec. 1, 2008. … The game featured Ruff, the coach with the longest active NHL tenure with one team, and Trotz, the coach with the second-longest active tenure with one team.