SAN JOSE, Calif. – Lindy Ruff’s 500th career coaching victory was particularly satisfying.
Ryan Miller made 36 saves, and Thomas Vanek scored his team-leading 16th goal to help Ruff reach the milestone in the Buffalo Sabres’ 3-0 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night.
“That might be our best all-around effort of the year from a compete standpoint,” Ruff said.
Ruff reached the milestone in convincing fashion as Buffalo got goals from Luke Adam and Jochen Hecht in the first period and then stellar goaltending from Miller to sweep the two-game season series against San Jose.
Ruff became the 16th NHL coach with 500 wins and joined Montreal’s Toe Blake as the only ones in the club who got all their wins with one team.
“It means I’ve had a lot of good players to get to that point,” Ruff said. “To get 500 and be with one organization, the organization I grew up playing in, is special.”
The Sharks lost for the second time at home this week as their up-and-down season continues.
San Jose has dropped four of six and was booed at times by the frustrated home crowd in this game. This marked the third time this season the Sharks had been shut out at home, including twice in the past three home games. That equals their number of home shutouts from the past three seasons combined.
The Sharks got off to a sluggish start, and by the time they finally took control of the play they were already trailing 3-0 in the second.
“You give that goaltender a 3-0 lead, it doesn’t matter,” coach Todd McLellan said. “The first team that played in the first period was unacceptable, after that not a bad effort but way too late.”
San Jose put heavy pressure on Miller throughout the period, but he came up with a strong pad save against Benn Ferriero early and then shut down the Sharks on a late power play. The Sabres defence did a good job keeping the front of the net clear, allowing Miller good vision on San Jose’s shots with the extra man.
“There were no real odd-man rushes, no tough chances on their power play,” Miller said. “They had a few looks but I had help around me and I could commit to my reads. It turns into a night when our zone was pretty well organized.”
Miller came up big again early in the third period, sliding across the net to stop a deflection from Dany Heatley on the power play to help preserve his 20th career shutout. It was one of 11 stops he had against Heatley, who had never gone scoreless in a game with at least 10 shots in his career.
The Sabres used some quick passing to take a 3-0 lead earlier in the second with Dan Boyle in the penalty box for tripping. Jordan Leopold fed Drew Stafford behind the net and Stafford quickly found Vanek in the slot for a one-timer that beat Antero Niittymaki high for the goal.
It was a penalty-filled first period with both teams having three power-play chances. Neither team was able to convert with the extra man, with each team losing one chance by committing a penalty of its own.
The Sharks also had another good scoring chance thwarted when Mike Grier cleared a loose puck that trickled by Miller off the goal line midway through the first.
The Sabres converted on a 3-on-2 chance a short while later when Adam backhanded a rebound of Cody McCormick’s shot past Niittymaki for his third goal of the season.
A few minutes later, Hecht won a loose puck along the boards from Patrick Marleau and Devin Setoguchi and beat Niittymaki with a wrist shot from the slot to make it 2-0.
“There were times that we were chasing the puck too much,” Boyle said. “We were working hard but not necessarily smart all the time. We made two mistakes on their first goals. Obviously the first one I lost my man for a fraction of a second, that’s my fault, I just lost track of my guy for a half-second and then it’s in the back of the net. On the second goal, I believe there were two or three guys that were beat off the wall. Those are two mistakes that can be corrected.”
NOTES: Miller has three shutouts this season. … San Jose has been shut out six times overall this season. … Heatley’s 11 shots on goal were a team record, eclipsing the record of 10 last reached by Setoguchi on Nov. 11, 2008, against Nashville. … Vanek’s goal was Buffalo’s fourth power-play goal in its last 15 road games. … Sharks F Joe Pavelski missed his fifth straight game with a lower body injury. … Sharks F Torry Mitchell returned after missing five games with groin injury.