ANAHEIM, CA - FEBRUARY 29: Goaltender Ryan Miller #30 of the Buffalo Sabres is congratulated by Thomas Vanek #26 after shuting out the Anaheim Ducks 2-0 at Honda Center on February 29, 2012 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
For the second straight nightlooked unbeatable, stopping 39 shots tonight victory after racking up 43 saves in Anaheim only 24 hours before.
It hasn't been par for the course this season for Miller and the similarly struggling, but he looked all-world tonight in the final frame when San Jose poured 17 pucks to the net in a frantic bid to send the game to overtime.
scored the lone goal of the night to give Buffalo their 1-0 victory.
San Jose struggled out of the gate in a pretty lethargic first period characterized by nothing in particular. They held their own defensively against Buffalo for the most part, with one of the few mistakes ending up in the back of the net. A soft pass up the middle byin the neutral zone quickly went the other way, with setting up Drew Stafford in the middle of the zone on the ensuing 3v2. Stafford's slap shot beat Niemi low to give the Sabres a 1-0 lead that would stand for the rest of the game.
"He [Ryan Miller] played excellent so we’ll give him credit for that. I thought we started slow in the first period, got better in the second, and really played well in the third,"Assistant Coach Matt Shaw said. "At that point, he was feeling it, and we struggled to beat him."
San Jose looked sluggish in the first 10 minutes or so of the second period as well, but a better effort at the end of the frame gave them some momentum that would carry over into the third period. Their first power play of the evening, following aholding call in the offensive zone against Brent Burns, had a mere one shot on net but was characterized with some good puck movement and near misses. It was a turning point of sorts for the Sharks as they would go on to heavily outplay Buffalo until the final whistle.
The third period was all San Jose, with the Sharks looking like an immensely dangerous team for nearly the entire 20 minutes. San Jose outshot Buffalo 17-5 in that frame, and while some of that can be characterized by scoring effects, a large part of it also had to do with their ability to find opportunities off the boards. San Jose was merciless on the Sabres along the wall and behind the net, taking full advantage of the third period that tends to kill teams playing on back to backs.
and notched a pair of golden opportunities at around the 14:00 minute mark that Miller somehow managed to keep out, and TJ Galiardi made a brilliant individual move to center a pass that Miller pokechecked away. , fresh off a goal the night before, also had some chances that Miller managed to keep out.
Brent Burns was also a noticeable force out on the ice in the final frame, jumping into the play and using his immense strength and size to control the puck low in the zone. It obviously has a lot to do with getting the greenlight from the coaching staff to jump into the play, but it seems as if Burns truly shines the brightest with the team down by a goal in the third period.
In essence, it was everything you could have reasonably expected from a Sharks team fighting to get a much needed win.
As has been the story for San Jose during the last month however, the late push wouldn't produce a goal. And the Sharks, who let an opportunity to leapfrog back into first place in the Pacific tonight following a Phoenix loss, extended their scoreless streak to 118:38 following their 1-0 slugfest with Philadelphia on Tuesday.
San Jose will face, a team they have yet to win against this season, on Saturday night.
And their playoff hopes, while not truly in jeopardy at this moment in time, continue to look more and more tenuous as the season marches on in March.