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Sabres, Enroth top Panthers for second win

by Alain Poupart /

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Buffalo Sabres got a rare victory Friday night, and they can thank goalie Jhonas Enroth for it.

Enroth stopped 44 shots and Steve Ott broke a 1-1 tie with 7:18 left in the third period to help the Sabres beat the Florida Panthers 3-1 at BB&T Center for only their second victory in 12 games.

"Jhonas was phenomenal," Ott said. "If it wasn't for what he did out there, we had no business being in the game. It could have gone the other way in a hurry. He gave us a chance."

Enroth, making his fourth start of the season and his first in five games, earned his first victory. He came into the game with an 0-2-1 record despite a 2.66 goals-against average and .909 save percentage.

"This is a special feeling, winning the game instead of losing when you play good," Enroth said. "I think I played a pretty perfect game … well, it was a perfect game; that goal they scored is one out of a hundred, I think, so it was a good game for me."

Enroth won a battle of Swedish goalies against Florida's Jacob Markstrom, who made 18 saves in his sixth start of the season.

Enroth also beat his former coach with the Portland Pirates of the American Hockey League, Kevin Dineen, who coached him for three seasons before becoming coach of the Panthers.

"I know what his capabilities are," Dineen said. "I also know his weaknesses. That's as well as I've ever seen him play."

Rookie Rasmus Ristolainen, the eighth pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, scored his first NHL goal for the Sabres (2-9-1). Cody Hodgson added an empty-netter with 46.6 seconds left.

Buffalo won despite being outshot 45-21.

"It's a win, and we're desperate for those right now, but we've got a lot to work on," Ott said. "We pulled it out, which was nice, but we can't give up 45 shots."

Jesse Winchester scored for the Panthers (3-7-1) off an assist from forward Sean Bergenheim, playing in his first NHL game since the 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

The Panthers have been held to two goals or less in each of their past four games.

"Whatever hockey gods are out there, they're definitely not shining on us right now with our bounces," Panthers right wing Kris Versteeg said. "I really have no answers. The effort is there and we're putting pucks at the net. For whatever reason, it's not going in. We had a great effort tonight. Hopefully, something turns around. I think with the guys we have in this room, it can turn around, but we definitely need some bounces or something because it's a little disheartening for everyone in this room."

This was the first of four meetings between the new Atlantic Division foes, with the next one scheduled for Jan. 9 in Buffalo.

Because of the suspensions of forwards John Scott and Patrick Kaleta, the Sabres played with seven defensemen and 11 forwards, but defenseman Mike Weber left the game in the second period because of a shoulder injury.

Ott scored when he tipped Christian Ehrhoff's shot from the point. It was the Sabres captain's first goal of the season.

"That was a huge goal for us to score in the third," Enroth said. "Usually we give up the goal with a couple minutes left. That's huge for us, and hopefully we can start building on that."

Ristolainen followed fellow 2013 Sabres first-round pick Nikita Zadorov in scoring his first NHL goal when his seemingly harmless wrist shot from the point beat Markstrom to the stick side in the second period. Markstrom was screened by Sabres forward Cody McCormick and Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson jostling for position in front of the net. McCormick and Gudbranson ended up fighting after the goal.

Zadorov, the 16th pick in the 2013 draft, scored his first goal Wednesday during a 5-2 loss against the Boston Bruins.

"Risto's got a big shot, he's got a nice shot from the point, but Cody McCormick paid the price," Sabres coach Ron Rolston said. "He was able to get it through."

Winchester opened the scoring at 13:58 of the first period when he batted Bergenheim's cross-ice pass to the front of the net out of midair.

Bergenheim had 11:59 of ice time, including 5:26 in the third period, and had two shots on goals in his first NHL game in almost 18 months. He missed all of last season and the first 10 games this season because of abdomen, groin and hip issues.

"I thought Bergy had a good, solid game," Dineen said. "He made good, solid plays. He was in there creating offense. He had a lot of try and a lot of push. Unfortunately, like the rest of us he couldn't find the back of the net."

Buffalo has now been outscored 15-1 in the first period this season.

The Panthers outshot Buffalo 18-4 in the first period, recording a season high for shots in a period. The previous high was 15 in the third period of their 4-2 victory against the Dallas Stars in their season opener Oct. 3. Florida also ended up with a season high for a game with their 45 shots.

Buffalo did have one great scoring opportunity that didn't result in a shot, as Drew Stafford hit the post on a backhand after coming in alone on Markstrom.

The Panthers had hit the post earlier in the period when Marcel Goc fired a wrist shot from the right circle.

Florida had several good scoring chances in the second period, but Enroth came up big. His best stop came against Tomas Fleischmann on a shot from the front of the net.

"Jhonas was excellent [Friday night], especially early on to keep us in the game," Rolston said. "He's been great all year when he's been in there and gives us a chance to win, just like [Ryan Miller] does every night, and the guys were able to battle in the third to get him the two points."

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