UNIONDALE – Tyler Myers, wearing a suit and winter hat, sat in the press box high above the ice Saturday night while Ryan Miller stole a victory for the Buffalo Sabres. The defenseman didn’t want to be there.
“I’m embarrassed, and I should be,” Myers said.
Coach Lindy Ruff ran out of patience with his struggling defenseman and scratched him for the Sabres’ 3-2 victory over the New York Islanders, which featured a 41-save performance by Miller. All of Myers’ ice time came in the morning, when he skated hard for 75 minutes under the watchful eye of assistant coach James Patrick.
Myers hopes to be back in the lineup tonight when the Sabres host the Boston Bruins in First Niagara Center. The game will be played, but the Bruins’ home game against Tampa Bay on Saturday was canceled because more than 2 feet of snow fell in Boston. Its airport was scheduled to reopen late Saturday night, which allowed the Bruins to get to Buffalo.
“He’s had a rough go,” Ruff said of Myers. “He’s struggled. His confidence is low. Sometimes if you sit and watch a game, even in the back-to-back situation, I don’t think this can hurt him.”
Myers was on the ice for three of Boston’s four goals in their initial meeting, part of the reason he found himself scratched Saturday. He has one goal, no assists and a team-worst minus-9 rating.
“It’s just all mental for me,” he said. “I make a mistake, I’m too hard on myself and put too much pressure on myself in the long run. I think I just need to relax and take a step back and start enjoying myself instead of working my way out of my own game.
“It’s easier said than done. The way the last seven out of 10 games have gone, it’s tough to have fun when that’s happening. It’s a matter of trying to get on the positive side mentally and just start enjoying myself. It’s a game. I know I have to make some changes, and just keeping it simple is a good place to start.”
The full-game benching was just the second in Myers’ career. Ruff scratched him in November last season in Montreal, and Myers responded with his first two goals of the season in the next game.
“Two years in a row now,” Myers lamented. “It doesn’t feel very good, but silver lining, I responded the way I needed to last time, and this is what I have to do this time.”
Myers is in the first season of a seven-year, $38.5 million contract extension. He got a $10 million signing bonus in July and has a prorated $2 million salary.
His high perch gave him a good view of the Sabres’ sloppiness and Miller’s effectiveness, which included a stop of John Tavares on a penalty shot with 3:53 left in the third period. The Islanders outshot Buffalo, 43-15, but the Sabres never trailed and made their limited scoring chances count.
“We just need a win at this point,” said Miller, whose team won its second straight. “I was able to get in the way a little bit more than the last few games. It’s good to get in the flow and have the puck hit me and be able to get a win.”
Thomas Vanek opened the scoring with his 11th goal in his 11th game. It seemed inevitable New York would score, though, and it did with 41.1 seconds left to tie the game and cap a one-sided period. Tavares beat Miller from close range, and the Islanders skated into intermission with a 15-4 shot edge.
The avalanche of attempts continued into the second. The Islanders built their advantage to 22-4 and finished the period with a 29-11 lead. Once again, though, the Sabres struck first and the Isles had to score late to tie it.
Christian Ehrhoff, booed by the small crowd of 12,608 because he declined to sign with the Islanders two summers ago, gave the home fans another reason to jeer with 7:38 left. He worked a give-and-go rush with Cody Hodgson, accepted the return pass for a breakaway and beat Nabokov stickside.
The Sabres couldn’t reign in New York, however. Colin McDonald scored from the slot with 2:25 to go, sending the teams into the final period in a 2-2 deadlock.
Buffalo took its third and final lead with 7:35 gone in the final period. Steve Ott dropped a pass to charging defenseman Alexander Sulzer, and he rocketed a shot home. He got help from the screen set by rookie Mikhail Grigorenko, who played just 2:44 in the opening two periods and finished with 7:13 of ice time.
“His ice time some nights is going to be real good. Some nights it’s going to be down. He knew that coming in,” Ruff said. “He’s a young kid that we want to progress along, and I thought he did a good job for us in the third period.”