Jets slow down hot Sabres
Blake Wheeler had plenty of confidence when he skated in alone on Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller.
Wheeler scored the deciding goal on a breakaway in the third period, and Bryan Little had three assists in the Winnipeg Jets’ 3-1 victory over the Sabres on Monday night.
”The scouting report has kind of been that Miller’s unbeatable, but if you’re going to beat him, you’ve got to try to go over the shoulder,” Wheeler said. ”You always feel fortunate scoring on a goalie like him. He’s probably the best in the league right now.
”You’ve got to take a little bit of luck out of that, but it felt good it went our way.”
Andrew Ladd and Chris Thorburn also scored and Ondrej Pavelec made 23 saves for the Jets (32-27-8), who maintained their hold on eighth place in the Eastern Conference and stretched their over Washington to three points.
Corey Tropp scored for Buffalo, and Miller stopped 28 shots. The Sabres (30-28-8), 6-0-2 in their previous eight games, are tied for 10th place with Tampa Bay, four points behind Winnipeg.
The Jets went 5-1-2 on their eight-game homestand.
Ladd gave Winnipeg a 1-0 lead when he banged in a rebound at the front of the net at 13:45 of the first period, in which the Jets held a 10-7 shots advantage.
The Sabres swarmed the Jets’ zone during two second-period power plays but couldn’t connect. With 35 seconds left in the period, Tropp tied it with his second goal of the season — putting in a shot from a goal-mouth scramble.
Wheeler made it 2-1 after he took a pass from Little near center ice, skated in alone on Miller, and fired a high shot over the goalie’s outstretched glove at 8:02 of the third. Wheeler has five goals and 15 points in eight games.
Little, who had his first three-point game since Dec. 26, 2008, knew he was under a bit of pressure to get the puck to Wheeler as he broke free.
”I know if I don’t get it to him I’m going to hear about it for a while,” Little said. ”He did a great job of finding that hole. I had to make the pass pretty quick because it was going to close up. He made no mistake. It was a great goal.”
Miller said he didn’t see how the play developed.
”I’m just watching the guys to see if there’s any chance of danger,” he said. ”Obviously, I saw (Wheeler) coming for a while there. It’s just one of those ones where I thought I had him set up pretty good and I felt it just right at the edge of my glove.
”Just not probably enough on him taking away some space, and he made a nice play.”
Sabres coach Lindy Ruff wasn’t impressed by Wheeler’s effort.
”We made a big mistake in the third and it was a pretty tight game,” Ruff said. ”To give Wheeler a breakaway at that time of the game was bad judgment on our part by our defense. We had one guy joining and slipped in behind our other defenseman.”
Thorburn put Winnipeg ahead by tow goals at 10:54 when he skated around defenseman Robyn Regehr and slid a low shot under Miller, who is 6-1-1 in his past eight games.
NOTES: Jets D Zach Bogosian didn’t play because of an undisclosed lower body injury. … The Jets are 22-10-3 when they score first. The Sabres are 9-21-2 when allowing the first goal. … The Jets will play at Vancouver on Thursday and in Calgary on Friday. Buffalo will host Carolina on Wednesday.