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Boston goalie prolongs Sabres' slump Thomas bests Miller in battle between pipes

BOSTON -- It was fitting that the focus was almost exclusively on Ryan Miller and Tim Thomas at the end of Monday's game. The goaltenders for the Buffalo Sabres and Boston Bruins deserved to have the ice to themselves after refusing to allow the winning goal in regulation.

Each goaltender put on a stellar show in TD Banknorth Garden, but Thomas was the only one who was unbeatable in the shootout. After stopping 34 shots during the game, Thomas stopped all three by the Sabres in the shootout to give Boston a 3-2 victory. Marco Sturm beat Miller, who had several highlight-reel moments while making 35 stops.

The loss extended the Sabres' winless streak to a season-high three games. They have won only two of the last seven, a dismal stretch for a team that started 10-0 and has Stanley Cup dreams.

Co-captain Daniel Briere understands the concern that the skid is bringing. He knows the Sabres' problems -- careless defense, casual passes and lapses in work ethic -- are not going to resolve themselves.

But after Monday's loss, Briere pointed out that his team has slumped before. The Sabres had a 1-6 skid early last season, and that was trumped by a six-game winless slump in late March as the regular season ticked to a close.

"It's not the end of the world," Briere said. "We know we're going to come back from it. But we want to put a stop to it as quick as we can. There's only one way to do that, by working hard."

The Sabres put their hard hats on for the final 45 minutes of Monday's game. But they were slow to punch in, getting outshot 19-8 during the first period.

"When we won 10 in a row," center Derek Roy said, "that's all we were doing was working, and we've got to get back to doing that."

Despite the slow period, the score was still tied, 2-2, because of Miller.

"It could have easily been 5-1," forward Adam Mair said. "Ryan held us in there."

The Bruins opened the scoring on the power play just 3:23 into the game. Miller's save of Zdeno Chara's shot from the point went to Marc Savard, and he quickly rifled it in from the right side of the net.

The Sabres then took a 2-1 lead with goals by Roy and Jochen Hecht.

Roy displayed fancy footwork to get the Sabres on the board with 5:57 gone. Daniel Paille took a shot that was deflected to Roy. The puck was in his skates, and he kicked it up to his stick to make the score 1-1.

Hecht made it 2-1 midway through the first. Thomas stopped Chris Drury's point-blank blast, and the rebound went to the right side of the net. Hecht retrieved it behind the goal line and tried tucking it in, and he caught a break when his shot went off defenseman Brad Stuart and found the net.

The Sabres nearly escaped with the first-period lead despite their lackluster start. But with a large number of kids among the 15,585 counting down the final seconds of the period, the Bruins entered the Sabres' zone. P.J. Axelsson took a shot that Miller stopped. The goalie reached for the rebound, but before he could put his glove on it, Sabres defenseman Jaroslav Spacek accidentally tipped the puck through Miller's pads.

The goal came as the scoreboard ticked from 0.9 seconds to 0.7.

"We got what we deserved at the end of the period," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "It could have been easily 2-2 earlier in the period."

Neither goalie was beaten again until the shootout, and Miller made what may stand as the save of the year late in the second. Savard, Glen Murray and Paul Mara entered the Buffalo zone. Savard passed to Murray on the left side, and Murray gave it back to Savard on the right. Miller followed the pass across, and he had to dive back when Savard sent a pass to Mara streaking down the middle.

Miller thrust his stick high as he was diving, and it stopped Mara's shot just before it crossed the goal line.

"I didn't really get a good jump on that first pass, and then I didn't get a great jump on the second pass," Miller said. "It kind of left me getting my feet under me, and when he went to that third man trailing, I just got my body spun around and played percentages. I just kept everything high and came down with it."



Bruins 3

Sabres 2 (SO)

Slap shots: Bruins' shootout victory extends Sabres' winless streak to season-high three. . . . Miller and Thomas combine to stop 69 shots. . . . Roy and Hecht score for Sabres.

Fast fact: The Sabres fell to 7-2-1 in afternoon games over the past two seasons.

Next: Boston Bruins, 7 p.m. Wednesday at HSBC Arena.

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