During the Sabres’ discombobulated postgame celebration, Tyler Ennis was one guy who knew exactly what to do. Immediately after scoring the shootout winner Tuesday, Ennis skated to Ryan Miller and complimented the goaltender.
“I told him in the huddle after the game, ‘Every time I think you’re the best goalie in the world, you’re better than I think,’” he said. “He was so good and got us the win, really.”
There’s no doubt about that.
Miller made 43 saves in regulation and overtime, then stopped both of Los Angeles’ shootout attempts to lift Buffalo to an improbable 3-2 victory. The Kings outshot the Sabres, 45-17, including 30-7 through two periods.
“You’re outshot bad and outplayed, but when you have one of the best goalies in the world, that’s what happens,” said Sabres center Cody Hodgson, who responded from his benching in the previous game to score both of Buffalo’s goals.
Matt Moulson and Ennis scored in the shootout, giving the Sabres their first victory in 10 games in First Niagara Center (1-8-1). They didn’t know how to react, with some players trying to head toward the dressing room and others skating to center ice to salute the remnants of an announced crowd of 18,281.
It’s hard to blame them for the confusion given the rarity of victories and the shocking result in this one.
“We got the win and that’s all we’re looking at,” defenseman Mark Pysyk said. “Not the way we would have drawn it up, but it worked out all right.”
For most of the night, the Sabres joined their beleaguered fans in watching the Kings play hockey. It was a mismatch in shots, scoring chances, zone time … pretty much any stat that gets kept, the Kings had the lead.
There was one place, though, where the Kings couldn’t increase their lead — the scoreboard.
Buffalo took just four shots, gave up 15 and, for the most part, stood around while Miller kept them in the game in the first period. Despite dominating, Los Angeles scored only once, a lucky goal from Justin Williams that struck Pysyk and bounced past Miller with 1:17 off the clock.
The Kings made the Sabres miserable first-period totals worse. The Sabres have been outscored, 27-3, and outshot, 278-142, in the opening frames of their 20 games and have trailed after one in 17 and allowed the opening goal in 18.
The second period was more of the same as the fans sat expressionless for the first half. The Sabres took just one shot in the opening 12-plus minutes, but their second changed the score. Steve Ott carried the puck wide down the left side, then fed driving Hodgson for a tap-in with 7:14 left. So despite being in a 27-6 shot hole, the Sabres were in a 1-1 tie.
The deficit was 32-9 when Hodgson scored with 15:34 to play in regulation. The Kings rallied to get a deserved tie with 3:34 left. Dwight King got plunked by a shot in front of the net, shook it off and pushed the carom past Miller.
In a matchup of goaltenders vying for the starting job with the U.S. Olympic team, Miller topped the Kings’ Jonathan Quick. Quick allowed two goals on 17 shots and didn’t finish the game. He suffered an apparent groin injury and left with 1:20 remaining in overtime.
“I didn’t really check,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said of Quick’s status.
Emergency replacement Ben Scrivens was no match for Miller and the Sabres in the shootout, allowing Buffalo to improve to 4-15-1 heading into back-to-back games with Toronto this weekend.
“The fans deserve a win,” Ennis said. “It doesn’t matter how pretty it is. As long as we get the win, they’re happy and we’re happy.”