BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Ville Leino was happy to bask in some rare cheers after netting the winning goal in the shootout.
"Today was awesome," Leino said after scoring in the ninth round of the shootout to give the Buffalo Sabres a 3-2 win over the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night.
"Obviously we haven't been winning that much, so it's tough times but those kind of moments, you get a little extra energy."
Leino had not scored a goal in regulation all season and has been the subject of catcalls in Buffalo, but drew a roar of approval with his shootout tally.
When asked why he tabbed Leino to shoot, Buffalo coach Ted Nolan cited necessity as the reason he used the slumping forward.
"He played a real good game for us tonight, and we were running out of forwards," Nolan said. "He's had a tough, tough go, but he's a real good player and I was glad to see him get one."
Tyler Ennis scored twice in the third period and again in the shootout, while Nathan Lieuwen made 33 saves for his first NHL win.
Dainius Zubrus gave New Jersey a 1-0 lead at 8:16 of the second period and Tuomo Ruutu tipped Andy Greene's shot past Lieuwen at 6:58 of the third to tie it 2-2.
The Devils, 0-11 this season in shootouts, are three points out of the Eastern Conference's final wild card spot.
"We had a bunch of chances to score and we have guys who are good in the shootout," Zubrus said. "Tough to say it's luck because it's been 11 games in a row, but maybe a bit of bad luck has to be there."
Cory Schneider made 25 saves for New Jersey.
The Devils outshot Buffalo 10-8 in the opening period, but dominated possession and had the best chances.
New Jersey broke the deadlock in the second, when Michael Ryder's cross-crease pass appeared to be knocked into the Sabres goal by Jamie McBain. The goal was awarded to Zubrus.
Lieuwen returned to form after the goal, making a diving stick save on Ryder to keep the score 1-0. Moments later, he stopped Ruutu on a partial breakaway.
"The one word that Teddy keeps using is compete," Lieuwen said. "I just went out there and competed. Good things happened."