BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Mike Ribeiro and the NHL-leading Nashville Predators got the fortunate bounce they needed to fend off the last-place Buffalo Sabres on Sunday night.
Ribeiro tied the game with 4:17 left in regulation, and Filip Forsberg sealed a 2-1 victory in the fourth round of the shootout.
"We had some good scoring chances and couldn't score," Ribeiro said after the Predators outshot the Sabres 38-17. "We just tried to do the same thing, keep shooting pucks, and we were able to get that deflection and it went straight to me."
Ribeiro's goal came on Nashville's 34th shot and fifth power-play opportunity. He was set up alone to the left of the Sabres' net for an easy tap-in after teammate Cody Franson's shot from the right point caromed off the skates of a pair of Buffalo defenders.
"I think as a group we felt pretty confident in the way we were playing tonight," Franson said. "If we kept playing that way, we'd give ourselves chances. And that's what we tried to do."
Forsberg's decisive goal came after each team scored once during the first three shootout rounds, and afterPredators backup goalie Carter Hutton got his glove up to stop the Sabres' fourth shot from captain Brian Gionta.
Driving on net, Forsberg faked a forehand shot before going to his backhand and roofing the puck over goalie Michal Neuvirth's outstretched right pad.
Nashville (40-13-7) became the first NHL team to 40 wins and avoided its first three-game losing streak of the season after going 0-1-1 in its previous two games.
The Sabres (17-38-5) find themselves at the other end of the standings, and were unable to capitalize on Neuvirth's stellar 37-save performance.
"We were so close to winning the hockey game and beating the best team in the league," Neuvirth said. "But we took way too many penalties and they got one lucky bounce. It's tough to swallow, but it's definitely nice to get a point against a team like that."
Neuvirth has gone 1-2-2 and allowed nine goals on 184 shots since taking over the starting duties after Jhonas Enroth was traded to Dallas on Feb. 11.
The Sabres allowed seven power-play opportunities, and hard-hitting defenseman Zach Bogosian was in the box serving a double-minor for roughing when Ribeiro scored.
It didn't help that Buffalo was missing four regular defensemen, including rookie Nikita Zadorov, who was scratched by coach Ted Nolan after violating a team rule earlier in the day. Also out for the Sabres were Josh Gorges (season-ending surgery), Mike Weber, who had minor surgery after getting hurt in a 3-1 loss to the New York Rangers on Friday, and Tyson Strachan (infection).
A person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press that Zadorov was disciplined for showing up late for a team meeting on Sunday morning. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because Nolan did not reveal what rule the player broke.
Tyler Ennis scored in regulation and the shootout for the Sabres, who dropped to 3-19-2 in their past 24.
The Sabres — the NHL's lowest-scoring team — had difficulty generating any sustained offensive momentum. Despite two breakaway chances in the first 5 minutes, Buffalo didn't manage its first shot until Matt Moulson got one off from in tight 11:25 in. Gionta also had a breakaway chance 12 minutes into the third period, only to have his backhand shot stopped by Hutton's right pad.
"The one thing about our team for the last little while, we've been giving everything we have," Nolan said. "You can't be disappointed for the outcome."