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Wheeler scores game-winner as Jets down Sabres

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The Canadian Press
3/6/2012 2:04:56 AM
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WINNIPEG -- Blake Wheeler was feeling good about scoring his game-winner against the league's hottest goalie.

Wheeler's goal during a breakaway in the third period against Sabres goalie Ryan Miller proved to be the winner as the Winnipeg Jets beat Buffalo 3-1 on Monday.

"The scouting report has kind of been that Miller's unbeatable, but if you're going to beat him, you've got to try to go over the shoulder," Wheeler said.

"You always feel fortunate scoring on a goalie like him. He's probably the best in the league right now. You've got to take a little bit of luck out of that, but it felt good it went our way tonight."

The win gives Winnipeg a little breathing room in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The eighth-place Jets now have 72 points, three more than ninth-place Washington, who have two games in hand.

Andrew Ladd and Chris Thorburn also scored for the Jets, while Bryan Little tallied three assists and Ondrej Pavelec made 23 saves.

Corey Tropp had the only goal for Buffalo, which had been unbeaten in eight games heading into the contest.

Miller faced 31 shots in the loss and is 6-1-1 in his past eight games.

It was the last of an eight-game homestand for the Jets, who went 5-1-2 during that span.

Winnipeg retains eighth spot in the Eastern Conference with a 32-27-8 record. Buffalo is four points back at 30-28-8.

Ladd opened the game's scoring when he banged in a rebound at the front of the net at 13:45 of the first period.

The Sabres swarmed the Jets' zone during two power plays close to each other in the second period, but couldn't convert.

But with just 35 seconds left in the middle frame, right-winger Tropp scored his second goal of the season during a goal-mouth scramble to tie things up.

Wheeler made it 2-1 after he took a pass from Little near centre ice, skated in alone on Miller and fired a high shot over his out-stretched glove at 8:02 of the third.

Little knew he was under a bit of pressure to get the puck to Wheeler as he was busting free.

"I know if I don't get it to him I'm going to hear about it for a while," Little said.

"He did a great job of finding that hole. I had to make the pass pretty quick `cause it was going to close up. He made no mistake. It was a great goal."

It was Little's first three-point game since Dec. 26, 2008.

Wheeler has five goals and 15 points in his last eight games.

Miller said he didn't see how the play developed.

"I'm just watching the guys to see if there's any chance of danger," he said.

"Obviously, I saw (Wheeler) coming for a while there. It's just one of those ones where I thought I had him set up pretty good and I felt it just right at the edge of my glove.

"Just not probably enough on him taking away some space and he made a nice play."

Sabres coach Lindy Ruff wasn't impressed with Wheeler's goal.

"We made a big mistake in the third and it was a pretty tight game," Ruff said.

"To give Wheeler a breakaway at that time of the game was bad judgment on our part by our defence. We had one guy joining and slipped in behind our other defenceman."

Thorburn gave his team some breathing room at 10:54 when he skated around defenceman Robyn Regehr and slid a low shot under Miller off his own rebound.

Notes: Jets defenceman Zach Bogosian didn't play because of a lower-body injury... The Jets are 22-10-3 when scoring the first goal of the game. The Sabres are 9-21-2 when allowing the first goal of the game ... The Jets travel for two road games, Thursday in Vancouver and Friday against Calgary. Buffalo hosts Carolina on Wednesday.

Blake Wheeler (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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