BUFFALO, N.Y. – Ryan Miller had a good feeling Friday was going to be the night the Sabres ended their lengthy winless skid. The goalie even figured it could be a blowout.
He couldn’t have been more right.
Drew Stafford and Derek Roy had hat tricks and Buffalo routed the Atlanta Thrashers 10-1 to end a 10-game stretch without a win.
Thomas Vanek and Jochen Hecht each had a goal and two assists for the Sabres, who got off to a fast start with four goals in the first period. It was Stafford’s first three-goal game, and he also had two assists for a career-high five points, while Roy registered his third career hat trick and added an assist.
Miller made his prediction over lunch with teammates Tim Connolly and Maxim Afinogenov,
“I said, ‘You know, it’s just going to have to be one of those games where everybody’s clicking and we win something ridiculous like 7-1,”‘ Miller said. “Even my one-cent prediction got blown away.”
And how. Buffalo, which came within two games of tying a franchise-record 12-game winless stretch set in 1991 and matched in 2002, scored its most goals since a 10-1 win over Los Angeles in Jan. 2006. That was also the last time two Sabres players had hat tricks in the same game for the first time since Jason Pominville and Hecht did so against the Kings.
“It doesn’t happen often, scoring 10 goals in a game,” Roy said. “I think everybody was anxious to get out there and contribute.”
Daniel Paille and Ales Kotalik also scored for the Sabres, who won for the first time since a 6-5 shootout victory over Philadelphia on Dec. 22. They had scored just 16 times during their 10-game winless stretch.
“We weren’t trying to do anything fancy, we were just trying to outwork them,” Stafford said. “It feels good to finally win.”
Colin Stuart scored for Atlanta, which was playing 24 hours after losing in a shootout to Montreal. The loss, coupled with Carolina’s win over Edmonton on Friday, dropped the Thrashers out of first place in the Southeast Division.
Atlanta goalie Johan Hedberg allowed four goals on 11 shots before being pulled 12:41 into the game. Kari Lehtonen gave up three more goals on 21 shots through the second period before Hedberg returned for the third. He finished with 21 saves overall.
It was the most goals allowed by Atlanta in franchise history.
“This feeling is something I don’t want to feel again,” Hedberg said.
“It’s our most embarrassing loss in a long, long time,” captain Bobby Holik said. “I don’t think the team needs losses like this to learn from.”
The Sabres followed their four-goal first with three more in the second. They also netted three goals on the power play overall, the first time in six games they were able to convert with the man advantage.
Paille scored just 1:54 in, and Stafford made it 2-0 at 5:14. Roy, returning after a four-game absence because of a shoulder injury, capped the Sabres’ opening-period barrage with two goals in under a four-minute span.
Stuart made it 4-1 at 10:08 of the first with a short-handed goal.
After pumping 16 shots on goal in the first 20 minutes, the Sabres followed with another 16 in the second, with Hecht, Roy and Vanek each scoring.
Stafford made it 8-1 eight minutes into the third, then completed his three-goal night with his 11th of the year at 11:38.
Kotalik capped the scoring with a power-play goal with 2:18 left in the third after Thrashers forward Eric Boulton picked up 29 minutes in penalties when he instigated a scrum involving Hecht at 12:49.
Sabres forward Michael Ryan sustained an eye injury late in the game when Stuart high-sticked him.
Notes: The Sabres will play their next seven games on the road. … Hedberg made his first start in five games, and just his eighth appearance in the past 25 games. … Atlanta LW Brad Larsen (groin) missed his third game. … Lehtonen was yanked after allowing five goals in 40 minutes in Buffalo’s 6-0 win over Atlanta in October. … Buffalo defenceman Dmitri Kalinin added three assists, his first points since the season opener. … Atlanta LW Ilya Kovalchuk was held without a point for the second straight game after an 10-game point streak.