NASHVILLLE, Tenn. (AP) -Mike Grier told his teammates between periods to continue to believe in the system even though the Buffalo Sabres weren't scoring goals.
With 3:25 left to play Saturday night Grier's belief was rewarded. He fired a shot from a few feet out and was able to retrieve the rebound and shoot again. That second effort beat Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne and gave the Sabres a 1-0 victory in their first road game of the season.
"Mike Grier, you are my hero," Miller said. "Mike does a lot of things really well on the ice. He kept on telling us to trust the system and that we would get a breakthrough."
The Sabres had 42 shots on goal against Rinne, making his first start of the season.
"We had a lot of opportunities to score," Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. "There were a lot of pucks that went through feet, missed sticks and missed empty nets.
"Mike made a great first effort. But he got it back and made an even better second shot. That should be lesson for every kid who plays hockey."
Grier downplayed the shot, calling it a lucky bounce.
"Rinne was a good wall," Grier said. "As a team we have just been trying to throw the puck at the net as often as possible. We knew if we kept on doing it we would get the puck in the net.
"Tim Kennedy made a good play from behind the net. I had a nice first shot. I don't know if it got to the net or if the defenseman tipped it. Luckily, it came right back to me."
Rinne admitted he was just a half-second late.
"There was a lot of traffic and it was by me before I could get to it," Rinne said. "They are a very deep team. They come at you with four guys at a time. They take a lot of shots and they create a lot of rebounds."
Miller stopped 25 shots on his way to his first shutout of the season.
"My job on the road is to not get too high and to keep it tight," Miller said. "Nashville has some breakaways late in the third when the ice was getting chippy. I was happy to be there when I was needed."
Ruff and Predators coach Barry Trotz talk about the similarities between their systems. But Trotz was quick to point out that Ruff has made some changes in his team's playing style.
"They really pressured and caught us on our heels, especially in the first period," Trotz said. "They are pressuring down on your defense and they're pinching with their defense.
"They had four lines that were really buzzing. They won more of the foot races, and because they were quicker to the puck, they were able to get out of the zone and attack. They were just better than us."
"When you've got a chance, you've to do it with speed," Trotz said. "When they got a little breathing room they were going 100 miles an hour. We bring it down it down a gear when we bring the puck down the ice.
"Buffalo throws a lot of pucks to the crease area. If you mishandle one, they can burn you. And that's what ended up happening."
NOTES: Joel Ward played his first game of the season for Nashville after missing the first two because of a groin injury. ... Rinne's earned his first NHL shutout against the Sabres in Buffalo on Dec. 1, 2008. ... The game featured Ruff, the coach with the longest active NHL tenure with one team, and Trotz, the coach with the second-longest active tenure with one team.
|Head Coach Barry Trotz
On the pressure created by Buffalo…
They pressured, and caught us on our heels – especially in the first period. They are pressuring down on your defense, and they’re pinching their defense. You have to do things quickly, if you can execute on the walls, chip it out, then you can get some breakaways – and we actually had some. They put a lot of pucks to the net. They drove the net real hard today. They had four lines that were really buzzing tonight. They won more of the foot races, and because they were quicker to the puck, they were able to get out of the zone and attack. They were just better than us tonight – I’m not making any excuses.
On creating chances…
To take a page out of their book, when you’ve got a chance, you’ve got to do it with speed. When they got a little bit of breathing room, they were going a 100 miles an hour. We bring it down a little gear when we bring it down the ice when we get a chance like that.
They throw a lot of pucks to the crease area and if you mishandle it, they can burn you. That’s what ended up happening.
On it being a close game…
You knew it was going to be a 1-0 game. I just didn’t know if it was going to be in regulation or if it was going to be in overtime.
On Pekka Rinne’s performance and the goaltending situation…
For the most part, that was a great goaltending performance by Pekka – I thought he was really good – He was sharp, he was moving. I just wish we could have gotten to the overtime obviously. The way he was going he was probably going to win the game for us.
Both goaltenders are playing extremely well, I can’t make a bad choice. It’s not really a dilemma, it’s an asset - something you’ve got in your back pocket.
Goaltender Pekka Rinne
On the general play of the game…
It was a really tough game, but I think you have to give credit to those guys. Buffalo played really well and they forced the puck around and came hard. They were just the better team tonight.
On the game-winning goal…
I was just half-a-second late and it was by me before I could get to it and there was a lot of traffic.
On wanting to play well during his first start of the season…
During the game I felt comfortable and our guys did a good job in front of the net. I saw most of the pucks and I was able to make most of the saves, but overall I felt good.
On Buffalo’s guys creating so many chances…
They are a very deep team; they come with four guys at a time. They have a lot of shots and they can create rebounds.
Right Wing Joel Ward
On getting back on the ice after his injury…
I was sluggish at first but after awhile I think I started to pick it up a little bit. It was somewhat positive, but also negative because we lost the game.
On having two strong goalies in net tonight…
We had a lot of pucks on the net tonight and then we got the breakaway goal and he made a nice save on it. Pekka was unbelievable again for us tonight.
On his energy level tonight with linemates Goc and Jones…
We have been practicing for the last couple of days together and it has seemed to go pretty well. It’s been a little bit of a struggle getting pucks in the net but I think we will overcome that.
Center David Legwand
On coming back on Monday with a positive attitude…
We will have to get this game out of our head and come back because we’ve got a big game against Edmonton. They are going to be one of the teams that we’ll battle against for a playoff spot so we’ve got to come back and get two points.
On being disappointed after losing tonight’s game…
We want to move on from this, and we’ve got to win Monday and that’s what we’re focused on now. It was tough because Pekka played an excellent game for us tonight.