BOSTON – The Buffalo Sabres have been shorthanded the past two games, but managed to earn a point in the second half of a back-to-back set Sunday night.
Due to injuries and illnesses, Buffalo was short seven regular roster players heading into their game against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. They ended up down two more when Brian Gionta and Marcus Foligno did not return to action following a sequence in the second period of their 4-3 overtime loss.
Those two injuries forced the Sabres to play three lines and they nearly came away with two points. Boston tied the game on a goal from Dougie Hamilton with 1:31 remaining in regulation while skating with the extra attacker. Louis Eriksson skated in to score the game-winner with 2:46 left in overtime.
“I thought we battled hard the whole night. They were coming hard that whole third period, especially right when we got that early one there to go up,” Brian Flynn, who lost both of his linemates in Gionta and Foligno, said. “Their D was crashing. It was really hard to get pucks out. We battled hard and unfortunate, the ending there.”
While the result was not the one they hoped for, Sabres coach Ted Nolan was pleased to see how his club responded to that type of adversity and for the most part, liked their play in the defensive zone.
”I thought they really held their own. We got stronger going down to three lines and one extra guy,” Nolan said. “You couldn’t not be happy with the effort. The only thing you’re disappointed with is the outcome.”
Andrej Meszaros, who scored for Buffalo along with Tim Schaller and Rasmus Ristolainen scored, was on the ice for the winning goal.
“It hurts. We could’ve had two points,” he said. “We got one but hopefully next game we’re not going to have that many injuries and we can play a whole lineup and play even better.”
A ‘DANGEROUS HIT’
Gionta took a hit to the head at the Sabres blue line with 5:52 remaining in the first period when Matt Bartkowski stepped up and collided with him. Marcus Foligno immediately dropped the gloves to challenge Bartkowski as the Sabres medical team ran onto the ice to tend to Gionta.
“The head hits are dangerous hits so we’ll let the League look at that and make the correct call,” Nolan said.
It’s uncertain if Gionta will be available for Buffalo’s game Tuesday night against the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. Nolan said afterwards that Gionta was still a bit shaken up.
Foligno was given a two-minute minor for instigating, a five-minute major for fighting and a 10-minute misconduct. Bartkowski was ejected, charged with a game misconduct, a fighting major and a major for interference. Foligno was injured in the fight.
“It’s one of those freak accidents that happen when you fight,” Nolan said. “You’re throwing punches at helmets and what have you, so your hands are out there. We’re going to lose him for awhile.”
Foligno and Gionta joined Tyler Myers (lower body), Cody McCormick (lower body), Torrey Mitchell (lower body), Tyson Strachan (lower body), Mike Weber (knee), Matt Moulson (illness) and Patrick Kaleta (illness) on the injury list as a result of that play.
There is a chance Kaleta, Moulson, McCormick and Weber could be ready to return Tuesday night against Detroit. McCormick and Weber are currently with the team on the road trip, but Moulson and Kaleta are not.
Buffalo might also have to make another recall from the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League.
Jhonas Enroth wasn’t scheduled to start the game, but Michal Neuvirth was feeling under the weather so Enroth got the call again. A few other players are also battling flu-like symptoms.
Enroth had played Saturday night and then came out to make 33 saves against Boston.
“When all of a sudden you get a call at 5 o’clock saying you’re going – and he didn’t have enough time, really,” Nolan said. “Goalies need a lot of time to prepare and going into those situations – the third goal maybe he wish we would’ve had that one back, but overall, you can’t be disappointed with the goaltending.”
BIG SHOES TO FILL
The Sabres were without their ice-time leader in Myers, who sustained a lower-body injury in Saturday’s home game against Colorado. Mark Pysyk was called up from Rochester but it was Rasmus Ristolainen who picked up a big chunk of Myers’ responsibilities.
Ristolainen was paired with alternate captain Josh Gorges and served on the team’s first power-play unit, which features four forwards). Ristolainen played a career-high 27:01 Saturday night and skated a team-high 26:46 on Sunday.
“I feel better with how much more I play,” he said. “It’s just getting me more ready so I really enjoy it.”
The Sabres had taken a 3-2 lead 1:26 into the third thanks to Schaller’s first career goal. He had been called up late Saturday night with Pysyk due to the depleted Sabres lineup.
He took a pass from Nicolas Deslauriers behind the Bruins net and on a wrap around, slipped it in shortside past Tuukka Rask’s left skate.
The Merrimack, New Hampshire native’s parents were in the crowd to witness it.
“I didn’t even know how to celebrate,” Schaller said. “I threw my hands up. Everyone came to give me a hug so I guess that’s all I needed.”