Spending extra time in practice the past two days on the power play, paid off in a big way Tuesday night for the Buffalo Sabres.
A power-play goal by Tyler Ennis early in the third period was all Buffalo need to take two points from the Los Angeles Kings. In the 1-0 victory, Sabres goaltender Jhonas Enroth made 34 saves for the fourth shutout of his career and his first since April 13, 2013.
“The whole team contributed here tonight,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. “It was a nice power-play goal but from the so-called first line to the fourth line, everybody contributed, all the defense. It was a great team victory and Enroth, he was solid in between the pipes.”
Ennis’ goal came 4:00 into the third period on Buffalo’s second power-play opportunity of the night. Sabres center Zemgus Girgensons carried the puck into the right-wing corner and chipped the puck around behind the net.
Drew Stafford, pinching in from the point, knocked the puck back to Matt Moulson, who then started looking for a teammate in front.
“I could kind of see him out of the corner of my eye and he was wide open,” Moulson said. “You give it to him around there, he’s going to put it away.”
He found Ennis, who had slipped away from the Kings defense, and he was able to find twine for his eighth goal of the season.
“It’s a good feeling when you’re one-on-one with the goalie and you know you’ve got some time,” Ennis said. “Great pass by Matty, good entry by us and I’m glad we put it in, glad we got the win.”
Jonathan Quck made 16 saves for L.A.
Buffalo’s power play has had its struggles and the team knows there is still a lot of room for improvement.
“We’ve still got lots to work on,” Ennis said. “I don’t think it was our best day for the power play but we got one, we move forward, we get better at it.”
SHUTTING THE DOOR
The play of Buffalo’s goaltenders has been a bright spot all season. In his last eight games, Enroth has compiled a 6-2-0 record, with a .946 save percentage and a 1.79 goals-against average.
“When you get consistently great goaltending like that, it gives you a chance to win every night even if you do have a bunch of mistakes,” Moulson said.
While the 34 saves ties his career high for saves in a shutout, Enroth thought the workload wasn’t that severe. He got some help from his defenders who blocked 25 shots. Josh Gorges, Nikita Zadorov and Tyler Myers were each credited with four blocks a piece.
“This was actually one of my easier games, I think,” Enroth said. “Everything was pretty controlled, I put myself in a good position all the time and I was pretty sharp all game through. It was perfect all the way around, I think.”
KINGS OF THEIR RINK
With the win, the Sabres are now 12-1-1 in their past 14 home games against the Kings, dating back to a 2-0 Sabres win on Dec. 17, 1993. During this stretch, the Sabres have outscored the Kings by a 59-21 margin on home ice.
The Kings have not won a game in Buffalo since their 4-1 win at HSBC Arena on Feb. 21, 2003. The Sabres are now 6-0-0 since that last Kings win in Buffalo, outscoring L.A. 31-8 in those contests.
The Sabres played a tight, controlled defensive game for much of the night. They tried to limit the Kings’ offensive opportunities as best they could and then counter with a solid forecheck.
“You don’t want to go into a slugfest with the champion,” Nolan said. They’re a big team. They’re a heavy team and we know we can’t battle them pound for pound that way so we thought we’d stick and bob and weave and rope-a-dope a little bit and it worked pretty well.”
Buffalo ended up outhitting the Kings 31-22.
“We wanted to hit when we could hit but we didn’t want to go power to power,” Nolan said. “We wanted to hit and get out, hit and get out. And use our speed and use our short changes and just try to be like a bunch of hound dogs on the puck.”
After a disappointing road trip in Florida, the Sabres were able to play a smarter game and re-establish the better habits that allowed them to collect two three-game winning streaks prior to the trip. Moulson said that against the Kings, they had to take extra care of the puck.
“I don’t think you can make many mistakes against this team and come away with a victory,” he said. “We knew we needed to get pucks in, get our forecheck going. They’re a team that can jump on you quick offensively and they’re real disciplined throughout all their systems. Defensively, we knew we couldn’t be stupid with the puck.”
WHAT’S COMING UP
Buffalo’s four-game homestand continues Thursday night when the Sabres host the Calgary Flames. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m.