Steve Shields was thirsting for some goaltending action for the Buffalo Sabres. He got plenty of it here Saturday night in his first start of the season.
The 25-year-old goalie did all he could to hold off the New Jersey Devils, turning back 27 shots but still recording a 3-2 loss before 14,895 in the Continental Airlines Arena.
Former Sabre Dave Andreychuk came back to haunt his old team, scoring the game-winner at 7:36 of the third and assisting on the first two New Jersey goals. The goal was the 504th of Andreychuk's career, most by an active NHL left winger. He was selected the game's first star.
Andreychuk redirected a shot by Doug Gilmour, who was playing the point on the power play, behind Shields to snap a 2-2 tie.
After an impressive first period, the Sabres gradually broke down in the face of the Devils' attack. Shields had a fairly routine opening period but was busy after that as Buffalo was outshot, 24-15, over the final two frames. The margin was 30-26 overall.
Michael Grosek and Jason Dawe scored the Buffalo goals. Dawe picked up his fifth in six games; his power-play goal was the first given up by the Devils' short-handed unit this season.
Besides Andreychuk, Scott Niedermayer and Bobby Holik scored for New Jersey. Niedermayer's goal came during a two-man advantage in the second period to tie the game at 1.
Ruff thought the five-on-three power play turned the game around.
"It changed the complexion of the game," Ruff said. "Their guy trips over our goaltender going through the crease and we get called for a penalty on it. (Jay) McKee never touched him and gets called for cross-checking.
"Basically, we were on the run after that. I was happy with our first period but after that we looked like the tired team."
Holik evened it at 2 with a third-period goal. The forward won a face-off in the Buffalo end, went to the net and picked up a pass from Andreychuk and slid it behind Shields, who was down. The second New Jersey goal came after the Sabres had killed off a Devils power play that carried over from the end of the second period.
After Andreychuk's goal put New Jersey in front Buffalo had a chance to tie it when Petr Sykora and Gilmour picked up penalties. The two infractions gave the Sabres a 5-on-3 advantage for 27 seconds but the Sabres were unable to capitalize on it. Buffalo managed only one shot on net while New Jersey was short-handed.
The Sabres next head to Carolina to play the Hurricanes there on Wednesday. The Sabres played a strong first period, getting solid defense and strong play from all four lines. The most impressive line Ruff put out was Erik Rasmussen centering for Grosek and Curtis Brown, who was on in place of the injured Matthew Barnaby. They produced five of the Sabres' 11 shots on net in the period.
Rasmussen led a rush into the New Jersey zone, and dropped a pass for Grosek, who beat Martin Brodeur to the stick side with a shot along the ice just inside the left post. It came at 8:12. Brown also drew an assist on the play.
Shields seemed to pick up where he left off in the playoffs last season. Perhaps the toughest situation he faced was when he had to stick his right pad out to stop Valeri Zelepukin on a two-on-one break. Zelepukin carried the puck in and, rather than throw a pass across, he elected to surprise Shields with a quick wrist shot to the short side. Shields had almost started to move across in anticipation of a pass, but shot a pad out and knocked the puck into the corner.
"If it wasn't for Steve Shields we wouldn't have had a 2-1 lead (going into the third period)," Ruff said.
The Sabres had a chance to add to their advantage when Holik took a penalty for slashing Primeau. The Sabres managed two shots on net, including a dangerous-looking chance for Dawe in front on a pass out by Donald Audette.
Shields was far busier in the second period as the Devils came out much stronger than in the first. He had to make stops on Petr Sykora in close, then off a rush by Niedermayer.
That was followed by one of the most entertaining shifts of the game with the fourth lines of both teams on the ice -- Rob Ray, Randy Burridge and Scott Nichol for Buffalo and Krzysztof Oliwa, Denis Pederson and Reid Simpson for the Devils. Each side produced chances, but the Devils did more damage with their body checks.
Then came the controversial two-man advantage in which Niedermayer tied it. Mike Wilson picked up a tripping call for pulling down Gilmour on a breakaway at 5:56. It was close to a penalty-shot situation. Five seconds later, referee Paul Stewart called a cross-checking penalty on McKee against Zelepukin.
It took the Devils only 28 seconds to cash in on the five-on-three situation with Niedermayer scoring from the right circle as Andreychuk provided a screen in front. Andreychuk and Gilmour picked up the assists.
The Sabres regained the lead on the power-play goal by Dawe. Buffalo was outshot, 13-4, in the second period.