By Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER – Ryan Miller took time Friday morning to catch up with some old friends on the Buffalo Sabres.
Then he went out and helped send his former team to its 14th straight loss.
The veteran goalie stopped 20 shots and Chris Higgins snapped out of a long slump with a goal and an assist as the Vancouver Canucks defeated Buffalo 5-2.
Miller spent more than a decade with the Sabres’ organization, but was dealt to the St. Louis Blues before last season’s trade deadline with Buffalo in full rebuild mode.
“I’m not going to lie, it was a little bit weird looking down the ice and seeing that jersey,” said Miller, who signed with Vancouver as a free agent in July. “But it just turns into a hockey game and you want to win, you want to compete. It was nice to get that win.”
Bo Horvat, Yannick Weber, Nick Bonino and Radim Vrbata, into an empty net, had the other goals for Vancouver (27-17-3). Christopher Tanev and Henrik Sedin each added two assists as the Canucks snapped a two-game slide that included a 4-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday.
Chris Stewart scored twice on the power play for NHL-worst Buffalo (14-33-3), which failed to pick up a single point in January and has not won on the road since late November.
“When things go bad, things go bad,” said Sabres head coach Ted Nolan. “Every time we make a mistake it seems to be in our net. When things are like that, that’s what usually happens.”
After the visitors grabbed a 1-0 lead on Stewart’s first of the night, Horvat scored his fourth by banging a rebound past Buffalo third-string goalie Matt Hackett â€” who made 33 saves in his first start of the season â€” with 24 seconds left in opening period to send the teams to the locker-rooms tied.
The goal was Vancouver’s first at home in 195 minutes 57 secondsâ€” a stretch of nearly 10 periods.
“I think that was really important,” said Horvat. “We were feeling good about ourselves. It helped our confidence as a team and got the guys going.”
The Canucks then surged ahead with power-play goals 2:36 apart early in the second that snapped an ugly 2 for 29 stretch with the man advantage. Weber scored his fourth of the season at 1:43 before Bonino swatted home his 11th at 4:19.
“It’s the nice shots that don’t go in (and) the greasy, ugly rebounds that do,” said Bonino. “You have to go to the net, that’s where you have to go to score goals. I was happy that one went in.”
Vancouver had a number of chances to stretch that lead further, but Stewart scored his second of the evening and ninth of the season when a centring pass from the side of the net deflected in off Canucks defenceman Dan Hamhuis at 14:16.
Miller made his best save of the night on a Drew Stafford breakaway a few minutes later to keep the Canucks ahead 3-2 through two periods, and Higgins put things out of reach with his seventh of the season at 5:31 of the third by finishing off a nice passing play with the teams playing 4 on 4.
The goal snapped a 12-game drought for Higgins and was his just his second in the last 23.
“It feels good. Obviously it’s been a while,” said Higgins. “The game’s not all about scoring, but I think I have to produce at a better clip for our team to go a long way this year.
“It’s a special group here so it feels good to contribute.”
Notes: Vrbata’s empty netter in the final minute was his 19th goal of the season. … With both Derek Dorsett and Brad Richardson out with injuries up front for the Canucks, Ronalds Kenins made his NHL debut.
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