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Sharks shutout at home again
Ryan Miller stops 36 shots to sweep San Jose
1/6/11 - By Mike Lee -

Having won one game in their last ten games on the road, the Buffalo Sabres seemed ripe for the picking. After letting a win slip through their fingers on Monday against the Vancouver Canucks, the sharks seemed poised to take out some frustration on a cellar dweller. All of those factors were meaningless, as the Sabres dominated the Sharks at HP Pavilion on Thursday night to the tune of a 3-0 shutout. The Sabres parlayed a 6-3 win over the Sharks on December 9th to sweep the season series with San Jose in a lopsided affair.

Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller turned aside all 36 shots that he faced to earn the shutout. It was the third time the Sharks failed to score on home ice, equaling their total for the last three seasons combined.

Ironically, Dany Heatley set a team record for shots in a game with 11. As was the case with Heatley and the rest of his teammates, the shots were plentiful, but the ones that found twine were nowhere to be found.

A constant dose of shooting attempts from distance without any traffic in front of Miller spelled doom for the Sharks. Scoring chances in tight by Ryane Clowe and Patrick Marleau early in the game would be as close as San Jose would get to putting a puck past Miller.

"Our starts have been an issue, and I think tonight was the same way," said Sharks captain Joe Thornton. "I thought we sustained a lot of pressure, we did a lot of good things tonight, so hopefully we can build off this. It's tough when Ryan Miller gets hot." Marleau just missed pushing home a deflection midway through the 1st while the Sharks were on a brief power play. Marleau pounced on a deflection on the left side after Miller stopped a Heatley shot. Marleau's half shot trickled toward the goal line before being swept to safety by former Shark Mike Grier.

Rookie Luke Adam provided all the offense the Sabres would need at 10:43 of the opening period after Antero Niittymaki gave up a juicy rebound in the slot. Cody McCormick tried to jam a shot from outside the right post, but Niittymaki stuck his leg pad out to make the save, but the puck landed right on Adam's stick for the put back goal.

Jochen Hecht made it 2-0 with 3:24 left in the period by winning a scrum along the right wing boards, before skating to the slot and firing a 25 foot shot past Niittymaki. The Sharks defense seemed mesmerized by Hecht, who walked in on goal without any interference.

Miller made a pair of key saves early in the 2nd period, denying Joe Thornton on a chance from 3 feet out. Thornton would gather in the rebound as he skated from right to left, but couldn't lift his follow up shot over Miller.

Dan Boyle would take a questionable tripping penalty at 2:47, which led to Thomas Vanek's team leading 16th goal of the season on the ensuing power play. Vanek deposited a one time chance from the slot, while Kent Huskins screened his goaltender by parking himself at the top of the crease. Rather than step out into the slot to prevent Vanek from getting the shot off, Huskins became an obstacle for Niittymaki.

"The work ethic was there," said Boyle. "At times we were running around, chasing it a little bit too much. Working hard, not necessarily working smart." San Jose continued to lean on a dump and chase approach that Buffalo had figured out all night long. Rather than adjusting to the Sabres defense fallback approach, the Sharks insisted on pressing with an attack plan that didn't work all night long.

Sharks head coach Todd McLellan didn't mask his displeasure with his team's performance after the game.

"We can go back a couple of days. I sat in the locker room and listened to a group of players and their coaches talk about their team and how important starts were and how they were going to come prepared, and we got that, that's pretty disappointing. We work on net play yesterday, we give up the first one because we're soft. The second one, we cheat. The third one we must have spent 10 or 15 minutes in practice working on that exact play and it comes back to bite us."

Scott Nichol awoke the remainder of the sellout crowd that stuck around late in the game with a hit on Shaone Morrisonn late in the game behind Miller. Morrisonn reciprocated by laying an elbow on Jason Demers moments later.

When the clock would finally tick to zero, Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff had secured his 500th career victory. All of those wins came at the helm of the Sabres. Ruff has survived 150 other coaching changes since he took the reigns back in 1993.

Game Notes:

Torrey Mitchell returned to the Sharks lineup after suffering a lower body injury in the Sharks shutout loss to the Kings after Christmas.


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Scoring
1 2 3 T
BUF 2 1 0 3
SJ 0 0 0 0
1st period - 1, BUF, Adam 3 (McCormick, Neidermayer), 10:43. 2, BUF, Hecht 6 (Ennis), 16:36.
2nd period - 3, BUF, Vanek 16 (Stafford, Leopold), 3:31, (pp).
3rd period - None.
Penalties
1st period - Morrison, BUF (interference), 1:50; Mitchell, SJ (tripping), 5:11; Thornton, SJ (hooking), 7:00; Stafford, BUF (hooking), 7:52; Weber, BUF (fighting major), 10:20; Clowe, SJ (fighting major), 10:20; Montador, BUF (high sticking), 18:04; Boyle, SJ (holding the stick), 18:20.
2nd period - Boyle, SJ (tripping), 2:47; Hecht, BUF (interference), 16:38.
3rd period - Grier, BUF (delay of game - puck over glass), 3:09.
Goaltending
Shots Saves
BUF - Miller 36 36
SJ - Niittymaki 22 19
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
BUF 12 5 5 22
SJ 12 13 11 36
Power Play Conversion
BUF 1 of 4
SJ 0 of 5
3 Stars of the Game
Ryan Miller
Shaone Morrisonn
Thomas Vanek
Attendence
17,562
Officials
Referees: StLaurent, O'Halloran. Linesmen: Nowak, Galloway.
Holiday Gifts at BustedTees

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