GLENDALE, Ariz. – Ryan Miller helped the Buffalo Sabres finish a gruelling month on a high note.
Miller made 28 saves for his fourth shutout of the season and the Sabres beat the Phoenix Coyotes 2-0 on Saturday night. Tim Connolly scored his fourth goal in three games, and Daniel Paille also scored for Buffalo. The Sabres who won for the fifth time in seven games and finished 9-4 in January despite playing all but three games on the road.
“It’s something we identified on the schedule as being very important to our season,” Miller said. “It was going to be make or break and we had to survive it.”
Miller was rarely tested and made his best save on Shane Doan’s short-handed chance in the second period.
“I got my feet under me and thought Doan might take a quick shot,” Miller said. “He showed his hand as a pass not a shot but I stayed on my feet, was able to get back and ended up getting there in time.”
Phoenix lost its third straight since the all-star break – the last two by shutout – and slipped behind Anaheim into a four-way tie for seventh place in the Western Conference. The Coyotes have not scored in their last 142:36.
“The reality is there’s still 30 games to go,” Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky said. “There’s a lot of hockey left. We need to turn it around very quickly.”
The Sabres scored twice in just over four minutes in the second period.
Ilya Bryzgalov appeared to stop Thomas Vanek’s shot from the right side at 4:21 of the period, but the puck trickled into the crease behind the goalie’s back. Connolly swept in from the left and chipped the puck in from just in front of the goal-line.
“I saw those guys battling in front,” Connolly said. “They took most of the attention away and I was able to sneak in there behind the defence. It was just laying there in front of the goal-line.”
Connolly has seven goals and two assists in his last six games and nine goals in 16 games this season.
Paille made it 2-0 at 8:44 when he took a pass from Derek Roy to the right of the net and one-timed a shot into the upper left corner.
That was enough offence for Miller, who stopped 15 shots in the first period and 13 more the rest of the day for his first shutout since Dec. 19 against Los Angeles.
“The second and third (periods) we had a good effort from the guys,” Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. “Defensively and offensively we locked in pretty good and frustrated them for 40 minutes.”
The Coyotes were 0-for-7 on the power play and are 0-for-13 in their last two games.
“The power play let us down,” Doan said. “That falls on the guys who are the offensive leaders and get the opportunity on the power play. We’re the ones who should take the heat on this one. We had some better traffic in front and had some opportunities to score and we didn’t.”
Notes: Buffalo had lost three straight to Phoenix dating to Jan. 18, 2003. … Paille’s goal was his first since Dec. 22. … Phoenix right wing Peter Mueller missed his second straight game because of a concussion. … Buffalo centre Adam Mair was scratched for the second straight game with a leg injury. … Before the game, the Coyotes recalled centre Joel Perrault from San Antonio of the American Hockey League. Perrault, who has appeared in 80 career games with Phoenix and St. Louis, has eight goals and 21 assists in 20 games for the Rampage.