When a rookie goalie heads into a shootout against someone with a little more pedigree, the natural tendency is to give the advantage to the veteran -- except in the case of Buffalo Sabres
goalie Jhonas Enroth
When Tuesday night's game went to the shootout, he had the Montreal Canadiens right where he wanted them.
Enroth extended his own obscure NHL record by claiming the first three wins of his career via shootout when he stopped seven of the final eight shooters and Jochen Hecht scored in the 10th round to complete a comeback from a 2-0 second-period deficit and give Buffalo a 3-2 win.
"I think I'm pretty good at shootouts," Enroth said. "But getting my first three wins in the NHL by shootout is pretty unique, I think."
Indeed it is, because before the game no NHL goalie had ever earned even his first two wins in this fashion.
But the record-breaking didn't stop there, as the Buffalo Sabres PR department says it marked the first time in the shootout era that a team came back from 2-0 down in the game and also 2-0 down in the shootout to win.
On top of that, the seven goals scored by both teams equaled the League mark for the most ever in a shootout.
More important than any of that was the continuation of what has been a remarkable push towards the playoffs for a Sabres team that has gotten off the mat and gone 13-4-2 over the past 19 games. That run has pulled the Sabres (27-22-6) within two points of the idle Carolina Hurricanes for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Sabres moved ahead of the Atlanta Thrashers into ninth place in the standings, and they have two games in hand on the Hurricanes and three games on the Thrashers.
"We've got games in hand, games against teams we're trying to catch," said Jason Pominville, who tied the game at 6:08 of the third period to get Buffalo to overtime. "So those will be real important for us and hopefully we can keep it going."
Enroth was tremendous in goal for the Sabres, stepping in for Ryan Miller after the defending Vezina Trophy winner had started the last 31 straight for Buffalo. Enroth stopped 17 of 18 Canadiens shots in the first period to keep his team in the game and finished with 32 saves through 65 minutes.
In the shootout, Enroth allowed the first two shooters to score and then stopped seven of the final eight to give Hecht a chance to win it. But he never would have had that chance were it not for Tomas Vanek and Tyler Ennis beating Carey Price after David Desharnais and Tomas Plekanec gave Montreal a 2-0 lead in the tiebreaker.
"I think the guys came up big for me today," Enroth said. "I want to thank those guys; it was a real team win tonight."
Drew Stafford continued his ridiculous hot streak with another goal, scoring for the ninth time in his last five games. The Sabres are 4-0-1 in that span.
"It's pretty impressive," Pominville said of Stafford's surge. "Pucks are finding him, he's making great plays, he's in the good spots at the good time and he's putting them away. It's great to see and we're all real excited for him."
Max Pacioretty and Benoit Pouliot scored for the Canadiens (31-20-7), who squandered an opportunity to take over first place in the Northeast Division standings but still tied the Boston Bruins with 69 points. They remain second in the division because Boston holds a game in hand.
But the pain of blowing a 2-0 lead was tempered somewhat by the point received for making it to overtime, considering the Canadiens were missing regular defensemen Hal Gill (upper body) and Jaroslav Spacek (lower body).
Five of the Canadiens' 18 skaters began the season in the AHL.
"I thought we managed well, our young players were a factor again," Canadiens coach Jacques Martin said. "You always want more, you're hoping to get the two points. We had a good first period, but we let it slip and they took control of the game."
The Canadiens also got contributions from some streaking players -- Pacioretty now has 7 goals and 5 assists in his last 10 games, a period that essentially coincides with being moved into a line with Plekanec and Brian Gionta.
Pouliot extended his goal-scoring streak to three games, and Desharnais, his center, ran his points streak to four games by assisting on Pouliot's goal.
Still, the Canadiens let a 2-0 lead slip away and wasted a glorious opportunity when Mike Weber was called for tripping at 18:35 of the third period. The Canadiens were unable to capitalize and couldn't even muster a shot on goal, even during a 35-second 4-on-3 to start the overtime period.
"Just like the rest of the third period, I think we might have felt a little too relaxed out there," Pacioretty said. "When they take a penalty with two minutes you definitely have to make them pay, and we didn't tonight."
The Sabres, to a man, were talking prior to the game of how badly they wanted to make up for a 7-6 overtime loss to the New York Islanders on Sunday, and how they needed to shore up their game defensively.
Instead, Buffalo came out completely flat and allowed Montreal to dominate the play, giving up 18 shots -- but, thanks to Enroth, only one goal.
That one goal was another beauty from Pacioretty on the power play, where he got the puck at the side of the net and drove it to the front, banging in his own rebound for his 10th of the season at 4:54.
However, Montreal's inability to get more than that one goal on its 18 first-period shots would ultimately come back to bite the Habs.
The Sabres showed some more urgency to start the second period, but it was still Montreal that scored when Pouliot converted a great feed from Desharnais for his 13th of the season at 6:28 to make it 2-0.
The Sabres got back in the game on the power play at 17:48 of the second when Stafford converted a nice feed from Tomas Vanek to score his 24th of the season. They completed the comeback when Pominville buried Hecht's passout in front for his 13th of the season.