Chad Johnson stops 44 shots in Sabres’ 3-0 win over Ducks
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — With the seconds ticking away, Buffalo Sabres goalie Chad Johnson tried not to think about his first shutout in nearly 21 months.
Johnson made 44 saves for the fourth shutout of his careerleading the Buffalo Sabres to a 3-0 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday night.
“Usually when you start thinking about it is when something bad happens or it goes in,” Johnson said. “For me it was just next shot and trying to get to the end.”
He finished with the Sabres’ franchise record for saves in a regulation shutout. It was his first shutout since March 21, 2014, while playing for Boston.
“I can think of six times in the first and second periods where they had a good look at him from a good shooting spot with some good player shooting the puck and never looked like it was going to get by him,” Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. “I’m glad we buckled down and got the shutout for him.”
Evander Kane, Jack McCabe and Jamie McGinn scored for the Sabres, who rebounded from Tuesday’s shutout loss to New Jersey.
It was the seventh time in 31 games the Sabres have blanked the Ducks, good for the Buffalo’s highest shutout-to-games ratio against an opponent.
Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau’s 300th game with the club didn’t lessen the pressure on the struggling team, which held Buffalo to 22 shots but couldn’t get anything going.
Boudreau laid into his stars after the game.
“Quite frankly, when your best players aren’t your best players you’re not going to win the game,” Boudreau said. “And that’s the bottom line. And on a too consistent basis, our best players aren’t our best players.”
Anaheim’s struggling power play failed to convert in three opportunities, making it five games and 13 chances without a score on the man advantage.
Ducks goalie John Gibson finished with 19 saves.
The Sabres were playing their fifth game in eight nights, and have not allowed a power-play goal in that stretch.
It was Anaheim’s first game since Friday, and the first of a stretch that sees the Ducks on the road for seven of eight.
“We don’t have enough hunger, we don’t have enough drive,” Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf said. “Everything I think right now it feels like we’re almost there. It was almost a nice play, it was almost, and in this league that’s not good enough.”
The win also snapped Buffalo’s run of four-straight losses to Anaheim, a streak in which the Ducks outscored the Sabres 21-7.
Buffalo rookie Jack Eichel’s backhand dump-in caught Josh Manson in the face from close range, and the Ducks’ defenseman had to leave the game.
Anaheim’s Chris Stewart looked set to open the scoring when a backdoor pass caught Johnson off balance, but Cal O’Reilly knocked Stewart’s shot away from goal.
“We’re playing a lot better defensively in front of the crease and boxing guys out than we did at the beginning of the year and you see the results,” Johnson said.
Gibson slid across to stymie Johan Larsson’s attempt to jam a cross-crease pass into the goal about seven minutes into the first period.
Johnson stayed with Sami Vatanen through the finish of the Anaheim defenseman’s dash up the left side of the ice, comfortably stopping a 1-on-1.
Buffalo opened the scoring 2:36 into the second when Eichel sent a pass from the blue line to Kane, with the puck bounding off the winger’s ankle and into the goal.
McCabe doubled the advantage with 6:25 remaining in the period when he pinched from the left point to snap O’Reilly’s pass behind Gibson.
It was O’Reilly’s first point since Feb. 5, 2012. The journeyman forward has played just two games this season, his first NHL action since the end of 2011-12.
“A pretty special moment, especially being on a team with my brother,” said O’Reilly, whose brother Ryan is the Sabres’ alternate captain. “For a while I wasn’t sure if I’d ever play in the NHL again. The Sabres organization gave me a chance and it’s pretty special.”
The Sabres capped the scoring late in the final period, as Rasmus Ristolainen cut to the slot and lost control of the puck only for McGinn to slide the loose puck past Gibson.
“Getting up by three kinda deflates them and we go from there,” McGinn said. “We’re learning and it shows a lot of maturity to stick with it and pull out that win tonight.
NOTES: Ducks LW Jiri Sekac returned after missing 19 games with an ankle injury. ... Sabres LW Tyler Ennis missed his 12th game with an upper body injury, but will practice Friday in an effort to return to the lineup Saturday against Chicago.