BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) Ryan Miller stopped 30 shots for his fifth shutout of the season in leading the Buffalo Sabres to a 2-0 victory over New Jersey that all but ended the Devils’ playoff hopes Saturday night.
Nathan Gerbe and Thomas Vanek scored first-period goals to help the Sabres won their third straight and maintain their hold on eighth place in the Eastern Conference. Miller earned his 22nd career shutout and second in three games.
Just as important, the Sabres (38-28-9) moved five points ahead of ninth-place Carolina, and stayed two points back of the New York Rangers, who beat Boston 1-0.
The Devils were shut out on consecutive nights – and for the third time in five games – following a 1-0 shootout loss at Pittsburgh. They’ve gone 173:55 without scoring a goal.
The 12th-place Devils have faltered, going 1-4-1 in their past six, and are in position to miss the playoffs for the first time since 1995-96. New Jersey has seven games left and has fallen 12 points back of Buffalo for the East’s final playoff spot.
The Sabres also were playing on consecutive days and were able to carry over their momentum from a 4-2 home win over Florida.
Gerbe, with his fifth goal in five games, opened the scoring 4:17 in. Gerbe started the play by chasing down a loose puck behind the Devils net and feeding it in front to Brad Boyes, who got a shot off. Gerbe got the rebound and snapped it past Martin Brodeur.
Vanek scored 12 minutes later by converting a rebound in front after Brodeur stopped Jason Pominville hard low shot from the right circle.
The Sabres were thoroughly dominating the Devils at that point by out-shooting them 14-3.
New Jersey finally got going only to be turned away by Miller, who was particularly sharp in stopping 10 shots in the second period.
Patrik Elias redirected a shot in front eight minutes into the frame, only to be stopped by Miller, who got his left pad out at the last moment. A minute later, Miller got his right arm to turn aside Travis Zajac‘s snap shot from the slot.
A few minutes later, David Clarkson had the puck all alone in front and eventually shot wide as Miller patiently held his ground without providing an opening.
In finishing the season series with a 3-0-1 record, Buffalo beat the Devils three times in one season for only the second time. The only time Buffalo did that was a four-game sweep in 2000-01.
The Sabres’ victory also eliminated the 13th-place New York Islanders from playoff contention.
NOTES: Devils D Colin White and Anton Volchenkov are listed day to day with lower body injuries after both were hurt against Pittsburgh. D Jay Leach made his season debut after being called up from the minors while D Mark Fraser played after sitting out 17 games as a healthy scratch. … Sabres C Jochen Hecht returned after missing five games with an upper body injury, while D Steve Montador returned after missing three games with a lower body injury. … Montador played in place of Jordan Leopold, who’s out indefinitely after breaking his left hand in a 4-2 win over Florida on Friday. Hecht’s return led to Buffalo demoting RW Mark Mancari to AHL Portland. … The Sabres scored 105 goals through the first half of the season, and have 105 in their past 34.