Sam Reinhart, Buffalo’s top pick in 2014, put in his first goal of the preseason and Jhonas Enroth made 22 saves as the Sabres defeated the Washington Capitals 6-1 at First Niagara Center.
Matt Moulson scored twice and Drew Stafford, Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno also tallied.
It’s a new season – albeit preseason – and scoring six goals in a game was a nice reward for the team considering the work they’ve been putting in during training camp.
“It’s really refreshing here. We’re working hard. We’re driven,” Ennis said. “It was really nice to see the crowd appreciate that game tonight. They stuck around, they cheered and clapped at the end. It was nice to put six in. It was nice to win 6-1 for once. We haven’t done that in a long time so it’s a good feeling in here.”
The Sabres jumped ahead early with goals from Moulson and Stafford. Ennis capped off the period with a goal with 1:22 left to make it 3-0 before the first period ended.
Moulson’s goal came 2:54 on the rush. Ennis, from the right wing, threw a shot on net and it bounced off Capitals defenseman John Carlson. Moulson, following up on the play, was in the right place at the right time to knock the puck into the net.
“I was getting asked about our goal scoring troubles before the game so it was nice to put up six,” Moulson said. “Whenever it is, you can always build off that and get some confidence. When pucks are going in for you, it definitely feels like they’re going in a lot easier than when you’re slumping, personally and team-wise. Hopefully we can build on that.”
Buffalo made it 2-0 just 3:07 later, when Stafford, standing in front of the net, deflected a Cody Hodgson slap shot from the point up and over Braden Holtby’s shoulder.
Playing on a line with Moulson and Ennis, Gionta made his presence felt on the scoresheet for the first time this preseason.
On Ennis’ goal, Moulson won a battle in the defensive zone and got the puck up to Tyler Myers on the right wing. Cutting across the blue line, he sent the puck up to Gionta, whose shot rebounded off Holtby’s pad and out in front of the net. Ennis was there to cash in.
MULTIPLE POINTS MADE
Gionta, with three assists, had a multi-point night along with Moulson (2+0) and Ennis (1+2), Foligno (1+1) and Chris Stewart (0+2).
“I’m really starting to see the spirit of the team really coming together,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. “They’re starting to care for one another, they’re talking a lot more in practice. They’re having a lot more fun in the games. When you compete and you put an honest day’s effort in, those are the kind of results you get hopefully.”
It didn’t take long for Buffalo to make It 4-0 as Moulson tallied again four minutes into the second, wristing a shot over Holtby. Ennis won a battle against John Erskne, knocking him off the puck to gain possession in the Washington zone. Ennis then found Moulson in front of the net where the three-time 30 goal scorer didn’t miss.
Foligno, with 2:32 remaining in the second, made a strong move with the puck from the corner to the front of the net. He drove in and when the puck didn’t get past Holtby on his first attempt, he used his size to get in tight and swat the puck in on a second effort.
Jason Chimera scored 2:39 into the third period to spoil Enroth’s shutout bid.
MONKEY OFF HIS BACK
Reinhart, the second-overall pick in 2014, had been held without a point through four preseason games. He scored 7:10 into the third on Philipp Grubauer on a play that start in Buffalo’s end.
When the Sabres made their way into the Capitals’ zone, Reinhart started a cycle play with his linemates Foligno and Stewart. Reinhart worked his way into a shooting lane in the slot and Stewart found him with a pass from the right corner.
Reinhart, 18, who put up 105 points in juniors last season, was relieved to finally get one.
“I’ve been waiting for it for quite some time,” he said. “It was a bit of a relief for sure and just overall really happy to contribute in a [then] 5-1 game – not too focused on that – but the fact it went in is pretty excited.”
The trio had practiced a lot together over the course of training camp, but had yet to skate as a line in a preseason game. They chemistry they’ve been able to build in practice was evident Wednesday night, especially when it came to that scoring play.”
“I felt comfortable with my linemates as the game went on,” he said. “When you have big guys surrounding you that can move the puck and skate, it creates more space for me and I think the team overall, we played our best game tonight.”
His teammates and coaches were also happy to see him finally score.
“It was really nice to see him smile,” Nolan said. “When things ain’t going your way and the puck’s not finding the seams – he’s made some good plays in previous games – but tonight, to see him put one in was a good sign. It was a good sign of relief for him.”
‘A STRONG STATEMENT’
Enroth’s second game of the preseason went about as well as his first. He shut out the Carolina Hurricanes on Sept. 23, making 35 saves and followed it up with a win on Wednesday. He’s in a battle for the starting job with Michal Neuvirth, who will play in Buffalo’s final preseason game in Carolina on Friday.
Nolan isn’t ready to name an opening night starter yet, but has taken note of Enroth’s stellar play.
“We’ve got one more game to go. But he’s made a strong statement for sure,” Nolan said.
Buffalo’s final preseason game Friday night will start at 7 p.m. from PNC Arena (Radio only - WGR550 AM).