BUFFALO – All it took for the Buffalo Sabres to win their fourth game in the past five was a little bit of luck.
Matt Moulson scored a power-play goal into an empty net with 1:18 left in the third period to give the Buffalo Sabres a 2-1 victory against the Montreal Canadiens at First Niagara Center on Friday.
Tyler Ennis' dump-in took a bad bounce off a stanchion in the Montreal zone and went right to Moulson, who didn’t miss with Canadiens goalie Carey Price unable to get back in the crease.
“It must be a lucky day, so I’ll take it. I’ll take it,” said Moulson, who has four goals, including three in his past five games. “Those are always nice ones to have. I don’t think I’ve had one off the stanchion before.”
Ennis' dump-in was by design, but the bounce was all good fortune.
“They were doing a good job stopping our entries all night, and we were just saying if you're going to rim it, you've got to get it high on Price because he's good at playing the puck,” Ennis said. “[I] tried to rim it high and hard and got a really lucky bounce and a great win.”
Buffalo was on the power play because Canadiens defenseman Alexi Emelin was called for illegal contact to the head against Sabres captain Brian Gionta. With 1:54 to play in the third, Emelin appeared to hit Gionta, a former Canadiens captain, in the head with his shoulder.
“Those type of hits are not good to watch,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. “I mean, those could be career-ending hits. So we’ll see what the League does with that.”
Gionta was knocked to the ice by the hit, but was not injured on the play.
“It was a big guy against a small guy,” Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. “I don’t think he was going for the head.”
Ennis gave the Sabres a 1-0 lead at 3:27 of the first period with a highlight-reel goal. He received a pass in the neutral zone from Zemgus Girgensons and took the puck up the right wing. He deked around Emelin, and the puck bounced off Price's pad. Ennis gathered the puck and blindly fired a backhand shot as he fell to the ice and beat Price.
“I came across with some speed and tried to beat the defenseman with a lot of speed, take it to the net,” Ennis said. “I cut to the net, ended up in my skate. I had to get it back to my stick and I was pretty happy that one went in.”
It was Ennis’ seventh goal, the most on the Sabres.
“That first goal by Ennis, I mean, that was one of the goals you’re going to be looking at for probably the rest of the season on certain highlights,” Nolan said. “That was one beautiful goal.”
The Sabres rebounded from a 2-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday with a better team effort
Sabres goalie Jhonas Enroth made 30 saves in his third consecutive start. He’s appeared in four straight games, and in those four appearances, he’s allowed five goals and won three.
“Momentum can take you pretty far when you're playing pretty good and confidence is up. You seem to get those breaks sometime,” Enroth said. “We need to keep building on those breaks and stay positive here.”
Canadiens forward PA Parenteau made it 1-1 with a power-play goal 1:35 into the third period. It was his sixth goal.
After a tripping call on Ennis, Parenteau poked a loose puck in the crease past Enroth during a goal-mouth scrum. Enroth scrambled to cover the puck after stopping David Desharnais' shot, but he was unable to control it before Parenteau scored.
“I saw it all the way when I was coming down,” Parenteau said. “So I decided to dive and got lucky and got a piece of it. [Desharnais] made a good play to keep it alive in the crease with his stick. It was a huge goal for our team, but unfortunately we couldn't come away with the win.”
The Sabres didn’t view the play the same way.
“[The referee] said that I needed to cover it 100 percent,” Enroth said. “If you ask me, I covered it with my foot. It shouldn’t matter if you cover it with your glove or your foot, but playing against Montreal you’re not going to get a lot of calls. It is what it is, and I just tried to put it behind me.”
Price stopped 23 shots. The Canadiens host the Sabres at Bell Centre on Saturday.
“It’s tough, but we turn around, we go home and we play them again tomorrow,” Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty said. “It’s not the result we wanted. I think there are some good things to build off of. At the end of the day, it’s just the way it goes sometimes. We’ve got to do a better job finding ways to score goals. Not just tonight, as of late, and that could be the difference in the game.”
Sabres forward Drew Stafford did not return to the game following the first period because of a lower-body injury. He played 2:13 in the first period, but did not join the Sabres on the bench at the start of the second. Nolan said Buffalo will more than likely recall a forward from the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League
“He’s going to make the trip; he says he feels a lot better,” Nolan said. “He’ll do a morning skate and hopefully he’s in.”