After other Eastern Conference playoff teams earned some impressive wins the last two nights, the Buffalo Sabres made a resounding statement by blowing out the Atlanta Thrashers 8-2.
The Thrashers cannot point to a single moment or lapse in this lopsided game, as Buffalo “won” each period (3-1 in the first; 2-1 during the second and 3-0 in the third). The Sabres finished especially strong, scoring the game’s final five goals after Alex Burmistrov brought Atlanta to within one goal at 3-2 in the second. Buffalo jumped out to a quick lead when Jason Pominville scored 24 seconds in and rarely looked back.
Rob Niedemayer had two goals, Tyler Myers provided three assists and Mark Mancari had a goal and two assists in a game in which Buffalo received goals from various sources. The Sabres’ power play was strong in general, providing three of their goals.
While Ondrej Pavelec allowed five goals and Chris Mason let three more in, Ryan Miller stopped 28 out of 30 shots to earn his 30th win of the season. Miller is the eighth goalie in NHL history to put together six consecutive 30-win seasons. It makes sense that Miller accomplished such a feat tonight, since he’s the best Buffalo goalie since the days of Dominik Hasek. “The Dominator” ended up dropping a ceremonial puck before the game.
This win strengthens Buffalo’s hold on the eighth spot in the East with 78 points in 71 games played. They are two points ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes (72 games played) and four ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs (73 games played).
Atlanta really needed to win this game to close the gap a bit, as they’re now stuck at 72 points in 72 games played. They would need to close that six-point gap in 10 games and the Sabres have an extra game remaining to boot.
It’s too early to say that the Sabres and Rangers have control over the bottom two spots in the East, but both teams improved their chances so far this weekend. We’ll see if the Rangers can add to their lead in NBC’s Game of the Week against the Pittsburgh Penguins Sunday afternoon.