The Buffalo Sabres slipped into the team's longest losing streak of the season with a heartbreaking loss in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee at TD Banknorth Arena.
Buffalo dropped their third consecutive game, but gained a point in the standings for the first time in nearly a week, with a 3-2 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins on Monday afternoon.
"You can't win every game every year, but we've got to stop the bleeding now," said center Derek Roy, who scored Buffalo's first goal of the game. "We've got to get back to just working."
Goaltender Ryan Miller was sensational in net, holding Boston at bay through four periods of play, before being beaten by Marco Sturm with a high wristshot in Boston's first attempt in the shootout. Miller committed early to a poke check and left the top of the net wide open.
After surrendering two goals off 19 shots in the first period, Miller stopped 18 straight offerings by the Bruins, including a miraculous stick save on defenseman Paul Mara on a three-on-one midway through the second period. After a quick pass from Marc Savard to Mara left the netminder out of position, Miller speared the shot from the slot in midair.
"I didn't have a good jump on that first pass and I didn't get a great jump on the second pass," said Miller. "When [Marc Savard] went to the third man trailing, I spun around and played the percentages that [Mara] would think I would lay down.
"I kept everything high and came down with it."
Miller, who ranks second in the league with six shootout victories, has allowed five goals on 23 shootout attempts for a 0.783 save percentage.
Miller had been such a wall in the staged one-on-one's that he hadn't lost since Atlanta's 5-4 victory at HSBC Arena on October 28, the team's first loss of the season. The East Lansing, MI native finished the game with 35 saves, while Boston netminder Tim Thomas countered by stopping 34-of-36 Sabres shots.
"We [Thomas and himself] were having some fun," said Miller, who drops to 22-9-2 on the season. "It turned into one of those days where the pucks were hitting both of us, and for whatever reason, all the goals came in the first."
"Good goaltending goes a long way," said Roy. "[Miller] played great tonight and we just didn't respond."
Daniel Briere, Ales Kotalik and Thomas Vanek each shot to Thomas' glove side in the shootout and each were stopped by Boston's 32-year-old netminder. Jochen Hecht recorded Buffalo's second goal, his 12th of the season, midway through the first period.
Winger Daniel Paille, who skated with Chris Drury and Ales Kotalik in Paul Gaustad's stead, recorded his fifth assist in eight games with the primary helper on Roy's goal. Gaustad was absent from Buffalo's lineup for the first time this season after suffering an upper-body injury in Buffalo's 3-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night.
"The first 20 minutes, we didn't battle and we didn't get the puck deep," said Roy. "That's what hurt us tonight."
Marc Savard gave Boston the lead three minutes after the opening faceoff with his 17th goal of the season, one-timing Zdeno Chara's rebound over Miller's outstretched glove at 3:23.
"The first period, we weren't committed to playing in our own end," said head coach Lindy Ruff regarding the 19-8 shot disparity in the opening period. "If it wasn't for four or five big saves by Ryan, it would have been much worse. We got what we deserved at the end of the period."
Off a pair of rebounds, Buffalo took a 2-1 lead midway through the opening frame.
Roy tied the game after collecting Paille's rebound at the left post and firing into the open net at 5:57, while Hecht's shot from the right post was kicked into the net by Boston defenseman Brad Stuart to make the score 2-1 in favor of Buffalo at 9:17.
With 0.9 seconds remaining in the opening frame, Jaroslav Spacek kicked the P.J. Axelsson's rebound between Miller's pads as he was cruising through the slot to tie the score 2-2.