BUFFALO, N.Y. – The Buffalo Sabres had a difficult time finishing off the St. Louis Blues after a fast start.
Ryan Miller made 30 saves and Tim Connolly, Adam Mair and Henrik Tallinder each had a goal and an assist in Buffalo’s 4-3 victory over St. Louis on Wednesday night.
Scoring three times before the game was six minutes old, the Sabres looked as if they were going to cruise to an easy victory. However, the spunky Blues battled back only to fall short in their spirited comeback bid.
“We weren’t going to keep that pace up of three goals in 10 minutes for the rest of the night,” Mair said. “They started to take more risks and found their legs. It’s important to be able to play with that pressure sometimes. It creates positive and good habits that can carry you through.”
After falling behind 3-0, the Blues narrowed the gap to 3-2 on Patrik Berglund’s goal early in the second period, and began to take the territorial edge away from the Sabres. But they never got closer despite an impressive performance from backup goalie Chris Mason, who finished with 24 saves in relief of starter Manny Legace.
Mason robbed Thomas Vanek on a second-period breakaway, and kept the Blues in it with a stop on Clarke MacArthur off a rush midway through the third.
“He made some great saves,” Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. “We had some quality chances that could have put the game away for us.”
Jason Pominville also scored to help the Sabres snap a two-game losing streak and improve to 9-3-3. The Sabres also stopped an eight-game home winless streak against St. Louis that dated to October 1995.
“We got the start we wanted, and we had plenty of scoring chances. We could have easily scored a few more,” Pominville said. “It was a night where the goalies made good saves.”
David Perron had a goal and two assists, and Lee Stempniak and Berglund had a goal and an assist each for the Blues. St. Louis is winless in its last six, with five regulation losses in that span, to drop to 5-8-1.
Legace was pulled after Pominville’s goal at 5:18 of the first. Legace allowed three goals on just seven shots in making his second consecutive start after returning from a hip injury.
“I didn’t stop the puck, simple as that,” Legace said. “It’s no one’s fault but my own.”
The Blues were without second-leading scorer Paul Kariya for the third straight game. Kariya has been sidelined by an unspecified lower-body injury, but is expected to return Friday night at Chicago.
“It’s a tough game to lose,” Stempniak said. “We did a good job scoring three goals, but it makes it more of a bitter pill to lose by only one.”
The Sabres chased Legace with the first-period spree. Mair got things rolling with his third 2:46 in, and Connolly made it 2-0 at 4:55.
Twenty-three seconds later, Pominville’s wrist shot from the slot squirted past Legace’s pads to end the goalie’s night.
St. Louis cut it to 3-1 on Perron’s first of the season with just under six minutes to go in the first. He banked a shot in off Miller’s right arm from a sharp angle.
Berglund made it 3-2 with his fifth three minutes into the second period, before Tallinder upped Buffalo’s edge to 4-2 with his first of the season at 3:34 of the third period.
The Blues made it 4-3 with just under 12 minutes to go when Stempniak converted Perron’s slick pass in the slot.
“We wasted a lot of quality work,” Blues coach Andy Murray said.
Notes: Sabres C Tim Connolly left early in the third period after being hit by Blues LW Keith Tkachuk. Ruff said Connolly sustained a bruised upper body, but didn’t elaborate. … The Blues will conclude their five-game trip Friday against the Blackhawks. … There were only six minor penalties called, none in the first period. … It’s the second time Legace has been pulled this season. He was yanked after allowing two first-period goals in a game against Los Angeles on Oct. 24. … Berglund extended his points streak to five games. … It was the fastest Buffalo had jumped out to a 3-0 lead since Jan. 14, 2006, against Los Angeles when it scored three times in the first 4:33 of a 10-1 win.