Great work in net wasted again in latest Sabres loss - The Buffalo News

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Great work in net wasted again in latest Sabres loss

From injuries to lack of offense to having just one home win, plenty of things have already gone wrong for the Buffalo Sabres this season.

The shame of it all is that the club is wasting some terrific goaltending.

Backup Anders Nilsson put together another solid outing with 41 saves Friday night but couldn't get a win. New Jersey defenseman Andy Greene beat Nilsson on a penalty shot 29 seconds into overtime as the Devils escaped KeyBank Center with a 2-1 victory over the goal-challenged Sabres.

The Sabres' winless streak stretched to three games (0-1-2) and their home record slipped to 1-3-2 as they were outshot, 43-26, in the game. Nilsson made 18 saves in the third period and stopped all 14 shots he faced in blanking the Devils on six power plays. And yet, his record fell to 1-1-2.

"He played a great game, played strong again and gave us a chance to win the game," said coach Dan Bylsma. "He was a part of that penalty kill with several big saves. ... For his work, you'd like him to get the 'W.' "

"It's a team game and all the guys in front of me have been playing very solid games and not giving up scoring chances," said Nilsson. "I'm one year older, more experienced. This year, I'm trying to play more patient in the net. I'm a big guy. I'm trying not to overplay situations. I'm being a little calmer."

Through regulation, Nilsson was beaten only on a screened shot by Yohann Auvitu early in the third period, the first NHL goal by the Devils' rookie defenseman from France.

In four appearances as a Sabre, Nilsson ranks eighth in save percentage (.942) and 11th in goals-against average (1.96) among NHL goaltenders with at least 120 minutes played. Throw in starter Robin Lehner's figures of .929 and 2.19 and the Buffalo tandem ranks third in the NHL in save percentage (.931) and fourth in goals-against (2.20).

"'Lenny' is our No. 1 guy but it really doesn't matter who's in the net," said winger Evander Kane. "Both of those guys have certainly proved that through the course of the season."

Kane was whistled for the infraction that led to the winning goal, holding Greene as the Devils' captain tried to break in on Nilsson in the first minute of OT. A penalty for sure but a penalty shot in that spot? The Sabres, as you would imagine, thought it was dubious.

"Didn't expect to see it be that," said Bylsma. "It was a penalty but I didn't expect to see the referee's arm go to center ice."

Greene calmly came in on Nilsson and beat the goalie through the legs for his second goal of the season.

"I'm not trying to think about who is coming in on me that much," Nilsson said. "I'm trying to read the play as it develops. Honestly, I thought I had him covered and I thought I had it. Somehow it slipped under my pad."

Greene is the first New Jersey player to ever score on a penalty shot in overtime. Oddly, it's the second time in this calendar year the Sabres have lost in OT that way, as Boston's Brad Marchand beat Lehner to hand Buffalo a 2-1 defeat on another hotly disputed call Feb. 6 in TD Garden.

"I knew from the reaction of the crowd that something would happen. I was hoping they'd let somebody else take it on the ice," said a smiling Greene, who said his last penalty shot attempt came in college at Miami of Ohio. "But it was good. It worked out. I was just trying not to embarrass myself. I didn't want to become the next YouTube sensation."

The Sabres aren't putting together any YouTube plays downtown. They have only seven goals in the six games -- and just three at even strength. The goalies should sue for non-support but at least they're always ready to play.

"I've been trying to control what I can control and that's the way I'm working in practice and my work ethic," said Nilsson, who had sat for the previous six games. "For me, that's the best way to prepare. You see every practice is a game and I feel I'll be ready when my opportunity comes."

email: mharrington@buffnews.com

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