RALEIGH --Jhonas Enroth bounced back from the worst performance of his career in a big way.
Two nights after allowing five goals on 19 shots before being lifted in a loss to New Jersey, Buffalo's rookie goaltender stopped all 34 shots he faced as the Sabres blanked the struggling Carolina Hurricanes 1-0 on Friday night.
"It was good to come back after a game like that," Enroth said. "When you play like that, you just want to get out there again. I'm glad I got the start right after that game."
Jason Pominville's power-play goal in the first period stood up as the game-winner. Combined with heroics of Enroth, who improved to 7-1-0 this season, the Sabres (12-7-0) moved into first place in the Northeast Division with 24 points.
"Jhonas did a nice job," Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. "He had a couple of scramble saves, but again, I think people got back, and we had people get sticks on the shots. We had a couple guys lay down and block shots, which showed the desperation they had."
The Sabres finished with 21 blocked shots, including five by Tyler Myers.
The loss deepened the gloom in Carolina. The 'Canes (6-11-3) were shut out for the second time in three days, though they played better than they did in Wednesday's 4-0 loss at Montreal. General manager Jim Rutherford has openly admitted he is consulting within the organization to determine a plan for the rest of the season. Coach Paul Maurice is in the final year of his contract and is clearly on the hot seat with the team in a 3-9-2 skid.
"The zero on our side tonight and the zero on our side in Montreal are two completely different animals," said Maurice, whose team held a 76-43 advantage in shot attempts. "Putting the puck past the goalie wasn't there tonight, but everything else was. That was the best all-around team game we've played this year I think."
The Sabres took advantage of their first power play to score the game's only goal. Thomas Vanek's centering pass from behind the net rattled off the skates of Carolina defenseman Tim Gleason before Pominville poked a rebound past Brian Boucher at 13:04. Pominville extended his points streak to six games, during which he has nine points. Vanek and Brad Boyes earned the assists.
"It wasn't a pretty win, but we played good enough with the lead to get it done," said Pominville. "We're just happy to get out of here with the two points."
Boucher was sharp in his fourth start of the season. He spelled Cam Ward, who has a 1-6-0 mark in his last seven starts. Boucher entered the game with a lifetime 2.14 goals against average in seven games against the Sabres.
"There is no pity part and no one is going to feel bad for the Carolina Hurricanes around the league," Boucher said, reflecting on the team's struggles. "I know guys are frustrated we didn't score, but I'm telling you that was pretty solid for us. That's something to take to the rink tomorrow and to the game on Sunday."
Carolina's best chance to crack the scoresheet came on a power play in the second period. The Hurricanes had a lot of offensive zone time and managed three shots with Derek Roy off for hooking. But neither team could muster many chances for the remainder of the second period. In fact, Buffalo didn't take its first shot until 7:10 remained in the period and wound up with four.
The third-ranked Buffalo penalty kill was only tested twice by Carolina. Despite having the most advantages in the league, the Hurricanes rank 29th with the extra man.
For Maurice, the job watch continues. He was fired once before in Carolina by Rutherford in 2003-04 after an 8-12-10 start. Known for his quick wit and patience, Maurice showed some poise at the end of his postgame remarks when he was asked if it was difficult to watch the Hurricanes fail to bury any rebound chances.
"In my situation," he began, as a wide smile crossed his face, "I don't think I can fully describe the frustration of not seeing one of those second pucks go in."
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