BUFFALO, N.Y. – Ryan Miller and the Buffalo Sabres are having a lot of fun winning games early on.
Miller was spectacular in making 36 saves, Clarke MacArthur scored on a penalty shot, and rookie Tyler Myers scored his first NHL goal to help keep the Sabres undefeated in regulation with a 6-3 win over the New York Islanders on Friday night.
With a 4-0-1 mark, Buffalo is the only NHL team without a regulation loss.
“We’re just playing good hockey,” said Miller, who’s allowed just eight goals in five games to lead the NHL’s stingiest defence. “I’m enjoying it, and I hope we can keep it up all year.”
It wasn’t the Sabres finest effort inside their own zone, but Miller kept the Islanders and No. 1 draft pick John Tavares at bay with solid stops. Tavares finished with seven shots, while New York peppered Miller with 30 shots over the final two periods.
“He’s one of the best in the league,” Tavares said. “But that’s not making any excuses for our team. We have to make the most of our opportunities.”
Tim Connolly had a goal and assist, and Jochen Hecht, Patrick Kaleta, and Jason Pominville also scored for the Sabres. Myers and MacArthur also had assists.
“(Miller) keeps us in a lot of games,” said the 19-year-old defenceman Myers, who already has four points this season. “He’s an unbelievable goaltender. From the time I’ve been here I’ve been amazed. It’s nice having him back there backing us up.”
The Sabres got a scare with nine minutes left in the game when Miller was shaken up after Islanders defenceman Jack Hillen landed on top of him. But after laying prone for a minute, Miller was able to stay in the game, saying afterward that he was jolted and had the wind knocked out of him.
Matt Moulson had a goal and assist, and Tavares and Andy Sutton also scored for the Islanders (0-2-3). New York and Toronto are the lone teams in the league without a win this season.
Islanders goalie Dwayne Roloson allowed four goals on 12 shots before being pulled in favour of Martin Biron in the second period. Biron finished with 20 saves.
“This one is a killer,” Biron said. “We worked our way back in but hit posts and had a couple of wide open nets that we missed.”
Pominville scored his 100th career NHL goal with just over four minutes left to cap the scoring.
Connolly increased Buffalo’s lead to 3-0 on a power play with his second of the season before Moulson made it 3-1 with 12:52 left in the second.
Hecht gave Buffalo a 4-1 lead – and chased Roloson in the process – when his slap shot from the top of the left circle went between Roloson’s legs at 9:22 of the second.
Tavares made it 4-2 with his third of the season with 7:06 to go in the middle frame, capitalizing on Miller’s gaffe behind the net. Miller was unable to corral a shootaround, allowing Tavares to sneak to the side of the net with the puck before depositing it in.
Myers, Buffalo’s first-round pick in 2008, put the Sabres up 1-0 just 2:27 into the game when he backhanded a loose puck in the high slot past Roloson.
MacArthur was awarded a penalty shot with 5:18 left in the first period after he was hauled down by New York defenceman Mark Streit. MacArthur faked a wrist shot before slipping a backhander past Roloson.
The Sabres played their first game without Thomas Vanek, the high-scoring forward who sustained an upper-body injury Tuesday night against Detroit. Vanek was originally thought to be lost for at least a couple of weeks, but coach Lindy Ruff said Wednesday that Vanek could play in one of Buffalo’s weekend games.
The Sabres host Atlanta on Saturday.
Notes: The two teams will meet two more times over the next 19 days. … Roloson, who played for the Sabres from 1998-2000, is 0-5-1 with one tie against Buffalo … Tavares’ uncle, John, the National League Lacrosse’s career scoring leader for the Buffalo Bandits, was in attendance. The younger Tavares was once a ball boy for the Bandits. … It was the second consecutive game that the Sabres have been involved in a penalty shot situation, and second straight game in which they knocked a goalie out early. … Daniel Paille replaced Vanek in the lineup.