BUFFALO, N.Y. – Ryan Miller wasn’t sure he’d make it past the first period after his latest shaky performance. Thanks to Thomas Vanek and the resilient Buffalo Sabres, the goalie was able to stick around long enough to earn his first win in five starts.
Vanek scored a power-play goal 4:35 into overtime and the Sabres overcame yet another on-ice meltdown by Miller in rallying for a 6-5 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night.
“Obviously, we all know that Ryan needs to be better. He was fighting it, there’s no doubt,” coach Lindy Ruff said. “But I liked the fight the team put up. That’s even more important than the fight that Ryan was putting up.”
Making his first start after a two-game benching, the 2010 Vezina Trophy winner allowed two goals on the first three shots he faced and three on the first seven. It was an outing reminiscent of Miller’s last start, when he was yanked 6:23 in after allowing three goals on 11 shots in a 3-2 loss to Philadelphia last week.
“It was nice to make it to the second period this time,” said Miller, who made 26 saves and avoided losing five straight games in regulation for the first time in his career. “It’s not the easiest situation right now for me. … I want to help. And I want to get victories.”
Vanek and Derek Roy scored two goals apiece, and Jason Pominville had a goal and two assists in a game the Sabres never led until the final score.
Roy forced overtime by one-timing Pominville’s cross-ice feed for a power-play goal with 6:08 left in regulation. Vanek ended it with his team-leading 10th of the season.
With Blake Wheeler in the penalty box for hooking, the Sabres worked the puck around to Pominville in the left circle, where he ripped a shot that banked in off Vanek’s skate and past goalie Ondrej Pavelec.
Bryan Little scored twice, and Dustin Byfuglien and Tanner Glass each had a goal and an assist for the Jets, who closed a seven-game road trip, their longest of the season, with a 3-2-2 record.
“It’s fun when you score, it’s not fun when you get scored on,” Jets defenceman Zach Bogosian said. “Run-and-gun type of hockey is not the way we want to play.”
It didn’t help that the Jets lacked discipline. They were called for 14 penalties totalling 39 minutes in comparison to the Sabres, who had six penalties for 15 minutes.
Winnipeg’s penalty-killers allowed Buffalo to score on four of 12 power-play chances, with Roy’s tying goal coming on the Sabres’ third of three two-man advantages.
“We need to keep the game 5-on-5,” Jets coach Claude Noel said. “We would’ve liked to get two points, and it was in our grasp. I think we shot ourselves in the foot because we were in the box most of the time.”
Mark Flood also scored for the Jets, while Wheeler had two assists in what was an entertaining, back-and-forth game.
Flood and Little scored 66 seconds apart to put the Jets up 2-0.
Roy and rookie Corey Tropp responded by scoring 11 seconds apart to tie the game at two by the 9:16 mark of the opening period. The two teams then traded goals the rest of the way.
Pominville was pleased for Miller, aware of how the goalie was struggling with being questioned by the media and jeered at times on home ice. Miller’s troubles were magnified after rookie Jhonas Enroth took over and earned wins in each of the past two games.
“It hasn’t been easy for him,” Pominville said. “We knew he was going to come back strong, and I thought he did. Tough start, but I think the players in front of him were to blame.”
Miller had little help on at least three of the five goals he allowed. That included Byfuglien’s goal to open the third period, in which he was allowed to waltz in alone before snapping a shot that beat Miller inside the left post.
NOTES: Before the game, former Buffalo and Winnipeg Jets forward Dale Hawerchuk was inducted into the Sabres Hall of Fame. Hawerchuk had 110 goals and 385 points in five seasons with the Sabres in the 1990s, and 379 goals and 929 points over nine seasons with the original Jets. Also inducted was longtime Sabres broadcaster Rick Jeanneret. … The Jets play 17 of their next 23 at home, starting with facing Florida on Thursday. Winnipeg has played an NHL-low four home games. … Jets C Nik Antropov returned after missing two games with a hand injury.