As difficult as it was for Lindy Ruff to watch from the press box, and as painful as his three broken ribs felt, the Buffalo Sabres coach had plenty to smile about after a 6-0 win over the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night.
”I’ll take a hit to win a game any day,” Ruff said two days after being upended during a collision in practice. ”I felt better and better as the game went on. By the end, I felt really good.”
Ryan Miller made 36 saves to earn his third shutout of the season and second in three games. Buffalo captain Jason Pominville scored twice, and the Sabres even showed some punch by getting involved in several fights with the physical Bruins.
”We’re not going to back down,” Pominville said. ”Guys stepped in. Some of them played out of character. Everybody did different things to help us win. And that’s what a team is all about.”
Though interim coach James Patrick earned credit for his calm and cool demeanor behind the bench, don’t suggest that Ruff’s absence had anything to do with it.
”I’m glad (Ruff) was here to feel his presence a little bit,” Miller said. ”But that’s the kind of hockey we’ve got to play no matter who’s behind the bench or who’s in the lineup.”
Tyler Ennis had a goal and assist, and Drew Stafford, Christian Ehrhoff and Patrick Kaleta also scored.
The Sabres scored twice in each period, with Ehrhoff opening the scoring 6:23 in by floating in a shot from the left point. Pominville made it 2-0 about eight minutes later by redirecting Ville Leino’s no-look backhand pass through the crease.
The rout was on after Ennis and Kaleta scored in the second period.
The six goals in regulation were a season best for a team that managed two or fewer in five of its previous 20 games. Buffalo is suddenly on a roll, having gone 4-0-1 in its past five, while improving to 5-0-4 in its past nine home games.
The Northeast Division-leading Bruins fell to 5-6-1 in their past 12 games, while enduring their most lopsided loss of the season. Boston, which won at Washington on Sunday, hasn’t won two straight since beating Winnipeg and Montreal on Jan. 10-12.
”It’s been a while since we had a loss like this. Maybe it’s the best,” forward Milan Lucic said. ”Maybe it’s a wakeup call and shows that we need to be much better and we can’t take anyone lightly no matter who they are.”
The Bruins looked flat-footed from the start.
Tuukka Rask didn’t last 22 minutes before being pulled after allowing three goals on 10 shots. Tim Thomas gave up three goals on 19 shots in relief.
The closest the Bruins came to scoring was when they had a goal disallowed 8:20 in. Lucic had redirected in a point shot that would’ve tied it at 1-1, but referee Rob Martell ruled Rich Peverley interfered with Miller.
”I guess we were due for a game like that,” Thomas said. ”In the big picture, it doesn’t matter if we lost 2-0 or 2-1 or 5-0 or whatever. We just have to pick ourselves up off the ground.”
The Sabres are starting to show signs of life in a season in which very little has gone right. The struggles continued when Ruff got hurt after being upended from behind by defenseman Jordan Leopold.
Miller’s best save came seven minutes into the game when he kicked out his right pad just in time to stop David Krejci, who was set up in front. Miller’s now allowed just five goals in five starts, a stretch that includes a 1-0 shootout loss to the New York Rangers last week.
It was a chippy game that featured several skirmishes. Kaleta got into a fight with Lucic in the first period, and they got into it again in the final minutes after Lucic cross-checked Kaleta in the back of the head.
Lucic’s been targeted by the Sabres since he bowled over Miller in Buffalo’s 6-2 loss at Boston on Nov. 12. Miller sustained a concussion and whiplash, and the Sabres then had a swoon.
After a 10-5 start, the Sabres toppled out of the playoff race by going 9-18-5 in their next 32 games.
”They’re a team that wants to kind of intimidate you and push you around,” Miller said of the Bruins. ”It just goes to show, if you hang in there and play good hockey, that stuff really doesn’t matter.”
NOTES: Ruff isn’t sure when he’ll be able to fully resume his coaching duties, and he’ll be relegated to the press box indefinitely. Unable to skate, he said he also intends to run practice from the bench. … In 14 seasons, Ruff’s missed only one game — a 5-0 loss at Atlanta in March 2006 when he stayed home to be with his daughter, who had surgery to have a brain tumor removed. … Rask dropped to 0-3-1 in his past four games, a stretch in which he’s allowed 13 goals.