BUFFALO, N.Y. – Jochen Hecht and Jason Pominville gave the Buffalo Sabres a full two points in Ryan Miller’s pre-Olympic showdown with Martin Brodeur.
Hecht responded to Brodeur’s quick poke-check attempt with a nifty deke of his own in the second round of the shootout, Pominville sealed it with a goal in the next round, and the Sabres snapped a four-game winless streak with a 2-1 victory over the slumping New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night.
Miller preserved the bonus point by stopping Zach Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner in the first two rounds to snap a personal three-game shootout losing streak.
“I wasn’t going into the game banging my head against the wall, but I knew I could be better in the shootout,” Miller said.
Brodeur finished with 30 saves, while Miller made 39 stops in a game that featured a potential Olympic matchup. Miller will likely be the starter for the United States, while Brodeur looks to earn the starting nod for Canada next month in Vancouver.
German Olympian Hecht beat Brodeur with a heads-up play.
“I didn’t make my mind up until he got close,” Brodeur said about the shootout showdown. “I thought he wasn’t really looking at me.”
Hecht, who’s perfect on all three shootout attempts this season, certainly was.
“I saw him early enough to get out of the way, and it was an empty net,” he said.
Adam Mair scored in regulation for Buffalo (31-14-7), which returned home after a 2-3-2 trip.
“It was a hard game,” said Sabres coach Lindy Ruff, who shook things up with his struggling team by sitting the defensive pair of Toni Lydman and Steve Montador in favour of Andrej Sekera and Nathan Paetsch. “The effort was good. We stayed away from the situations that we got ourselves into the last couple of games.”
Brian Rolston scored the only goal for the offensively-challenged Devils (34-16-2), who’ve scored just 12 times during an eight-game stretch in which they’ve won just twice (2-5-1).
“We did a good job of creating opportunities, but we didn’t finish,” said Langenbrunner, who was whistled for goalie interference 8 minutes into the third period after delivering a blow to Miller’s head, then struck Miller in the mask with a slap shot in overtime. “(Miller) bailed them out of a few situations.”
Sabres centre Tim Connolly failed to register a point, snapping his career-high 16-game points streak.
Brodeur, meanwhile, rebounded from a poor start against Ottawa on Tuesday in which he was pulled after allowing three goals on 12 shots over the first two periods.
New Jersey was playing its fourth game in six nights, while the Sabres returned Tuesday from their season-long seven-game swing out west.
“To me, it looked like you were looking at two tired teams,” Ruff said. “There was only pockets of energy here and there.”
Mair gave Buffalo the early lead with his second of the year with 5:46 to go in the first period. Standing in front of the net, Mair was able to get a piece of Derek Roy’s slap shot from the top of the right circle.
Rolston tied it with his 16th with 5:09 remaining in the second period. After a long pass from Johnny Oduya at the red line, Rolston raced along the left wing before unleashing a slap shot from the left circle that beat Miller on the short side.
“When you get more chances, you want to win,” Devils coach Jacques Lemaire said. “You get a point, but this is a game that I felt we should have won.”
NOTES: Miller snapped a three-game home losing streak against the Devils. … Brodeur dropped to 5-1-2 in his last eight against the Sabres. … Paetsch picked up his first assist of the season on Mair’s goal. … Mair has goals in each of the last two games, the first time in his career he’s scored in back-to-back contests. … There were only two penalties called in the game. … The Sabres are 8-0-3 in their last 11 at home.