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Silencing the masses Miller earns fourth shutout Sabres vs. Canadiens: Gerbe scores two as Buffalo inches closer to playoff berth

There's usually no better place to watch hockey than Montreal. The fans are loud, passionate, educated and -- just to be clear -- loud.

The Buffalo Sabres kept them awfully quiet Tuesday.

The Sabres continued their road dominance, silencing the Canadiens and their fans with a 2-0 victory in Bell Centre. It should be no surprise the Sabres were able to feel at home on the road. They improved to 14-4-2 in their last 20 games away from Buffalo.

"Whenever you leave this barn when it's quiet, it's always a good feeling," Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers said.

Nathan Gerbe scored both goals while Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller outdueled counterpart Carey Price, making 31 stops for his fourth shutout of the season. It was 29 games between blankings, with his most recent shutout coming Jan. 6 at San Jose.

"Both goalies played great. Ours played a little bit better," Sabres center Paul Gaustad said.

Miller improved to 19-8-5 against Montreal.

"I was able to see some pucks, and we're blocking them and stepping into lanes to force them outside a lot," Miller said. "As for defensive efforts, that was one of our strongest."

The eighth-place Sabres needed to win to keep pace with the seventh-place New York Rangers and ninth-place Carolina Hurricanes. The Rangers moved to 84 points with a 1-0 victory over Florida, while the Hurricanes moved to 78 points with a 4-3 victory over Ottawa. The Sabres have 81 points with nine games to play.

Sabres coach Lindy Ruff spent part of his morning predicting a tight hockey game, and he was right on. The teams played a scoreless first period and entered the third separated by just a goal. Gerbe scored into an empty net with 21.3 seconds left as the Sabres improved to 2-0-1 in their last three games and 9-3-3 in the past 15.

The Sabres allowed Nashville to come back from a two-goal deficit in the final minutes Sunday, but they made sure the 21,273 fans in Bell Centre exited quietly.

"We're trying to play smarter," Gerbe said. "We need to learn to win games 1-0. That's what's going to help toward the end here. We knew we needed to be smart."

Gerbe scored midway through the second period to continue his hot streak. Myers chased down a puck at his blue line and quickly turned to fire toward the slot. Gerbe tipped it home with 11:04 left.

"I took a quick look and I saw a white jersey, but I was just throwing it to the front," Myers said. "If you throw pucks to the net, good stuff will happen."

Gerbe added his 13th goal of the season in the closing seconds. He had just one goal in the opening 41 games but has 12 in the last 32. He has found the net in three straight games and four of five.

"Nathan's really gone well," Ruff said. "That line [Gerbe, Gaustad and Mark Mancari] has just had good chemistry. It's played well. It was maybe our best line again."

Miller was at his best in the final minute of the second with the Canadiens swarming his zone. The Habs took four shots from around the crease with Miller moving from side to side to keep his team up by a goal entering the final period.

The Canadiens had a 12-8 shot edge after one period and a 22-18 advantage after two. They finished with a 31-24 lead.

"He might have seen a few more pucks than we wanted," Ruff said, "but we kept the quality down, which was important."

Along with the goaltenders, both teams' penalty-killers also stood out. The Sabres went 0 for 5 with the man advantage while killing both of Montreal's power plays.

The Sabres have two days off before returning to action with back-to-back home games this weekend. They host Florida on Friday, while the New Jersey Devils visit HSBC Arena on Saturday.

"Hopefully, we use this as something to build on," Miller said. "We played the kind of game we've been talking about, and we found success with it. Having that reward for playing the style we need to play, hopefully that can spark some positive energy."

e-mail: jvogl@buffnews.com

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