There was almost no way the Buffalo Sabres could lose Tuesday. It was a game set up on a tee. All they had to do was keep their head down, swing hard and enjoy a leisurely stroll to victory.
They followed through with ease.
The Sabres made short work of a team looking to get back home for the holidays, earning an easy 5-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks. The Sabres scored three times in the opening period, countered the Ducks' fists in the second and emphatically ended a two-game losing skid.
The Sabres were coming off a weekend in which they looked terrible, but it didn't take much to topple the Ducks. Consider:
*Anaheim was playing its fifth game in seven nights, all on the East Coast.
*The Ducks went through the wringer the night before, taking 45 shots from Boston in a 3-0 victory.
*Backup goaltender Curtis McElhinney, who failed to finish his previous start, was back in net, giving a rest to weary stud Jonas Hiller.
Add it up and it should equal the Sabres' easiest victory of the season. It was.
"We've got to be able to jump on a team that's coming off a stretch like that," Sabres center Cody McCormick said. "It was just a game we've got to have. We've got to make sure we're on top of the guys, on top of their team when they're a little tired."
The Sabres piled up 17 shots in the first period and held the Ducks to just four in building their three-goal lead. Not that Buffalo needed any more help, but Anaheim obliged with a two-minute penalty early and a five-minute major late.
Drew Stafford and Tyler Ennis scored on the power plays, sandwiching Nathan Gerbe's even-strength goal midway through the period.
"You can take advantage of a team, and if you get them down early you can make it even tougher on them," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "You've got to get when the getting's good."
The Ducks built up enough energy during the first intermission to fight three times in the middle period, including twice in the opening six seconds.
Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf and Buffalo's McCormick ignored the opening faceoff and dropped the gloves when the puck dropped. The centers for the next faceoff battled, too. The Ducks' Kyle Chipchura challenged Paul Gaustad, who accepted to the delight of the sellout crowd of 18,690.
Midway through the period, George Parros -- one of the NHL's true heavyweights -- had his way with youngster Mike Weber. By then, the Sabres had a 4-0 lead with Ennis scoring his second of the night and ninth of the season.
"Those three guys did a heck of a job," Ruff said of the pugilists. "Parros is one of the toughest in the league, and Webby didn't throw a lot of punches, but he hit him with one really hard, so good for him."
Two goals in the closing minutes by Corey Perry ended the shutout bid by the Sabres' Ryan Miller. He parlayed his easy night (21 saves) into his 199th victory. One more will make him the 67th goaltender in NHL history to reach 200. Teammate Patrick Lalime was the 66th to reach the mark last season.
Captain Craig Rivet scored the Sabres' final goal with 2:57 remaining, capping a triumphant comeback from an 11-game benching.
"I'm happy that we got two points," Rivet said. "I'm happy that as a team we took a step forward. I think you can look around the room, and everybody played well. Every single guy worked extremely hard, and that's what I'm happy with. I'm happy that we can try and get some momentum here."