Zemgus Girgensons, Matt Moulson and Tyler Ennis have been playing on a line together for one month now and the Buffalo Sabres have really found their footing since then.
They played their first game together back on Nov. 11 in St. Louis but it wasn’t until a home win against Toronto three games later that things really started rolling.
With Buffalo’s 4-3 come-from-behind victory Thursday night over the Calgary Flames at First Niagara Center, the Sabres are 8-3-0 in their past 11 games and 6-1 in their past seven at home.
That top line for Buffalo was in on three of the four goals with Moulson scoring twice, including the game winner with 7:29 remaining. Girgensons scored the goal that tied it 3-3 and assisted on Moulson’s winner. Ennis recorded three helpers for his second three-point game of the season.
“Every time we really get a scoring chance, it’s a pretty big-time scoring chance for our line,” Girgensons said. “I think we still have to generate way more shots just to create some little bit dirtier goals.”
The Sabres only put 19 shots on Flames goaltender Karri Ramo. Buffalo’s Jhonas Enroth stopped 42 of 45 in his 100th NHL game.
“It gives us confidence to know that even though we didn’t play our best game that we still walked away with a win and we still got four goals in their net,” Marcus Foligno, who also scored for Buffalo, said. “The offense is there at the right times. Obviously we’d like to get more shots and lower the shots against.”
THE PUCK STOPS HERE
In his last nine games, Enroth has compiled a 7-2-0 record, with a .944 save percentage and a 1.93 goals-against average.
“I had a lot of shots against me and I felt pretty good all game,” he said. “It’s three goals, but it’s not that bad, I thought, especially when we win the game. It feels a little bit differently when you lose that game and you give up three goals.”
He had to come up big in the dying seconds when Curtis Glenncross put a shot on goal that could have tied the game.
“I got a piece of it with my elbow so it was a nice save,” Enroth said.
DON’T STOP BELIEVIN’
Since the coaching staff mixed up the lines on Nov. 10 and put Girgensons with Ennis and Moulson and formed another line consisting of Torrey Mitchell between Brian Flynn and Brian Gionta, Sabres coach Ted Nolan believes there’s been a different feel around the team.
Their ability to rally from down a goal midway through the third period shows him that the mindset of the team has evolved.
“It wasn’t one of our better games but to show the belief factor is starting to creep in was pretty special because we weren’t in the game but we still believed that we could still come back,” he said.
Moulson has also noticed a difference in the dressing room within the past month.
“This team’s taken a 180 from where we were at the start of the year. I think now we believe in each other,” he said. “We’re competing a lot harder and we know what we need to do to have success and have wins.
“We’re doing a lot better job of getting those little things done and when things go wrong – as things always do – throughout the game, throughout the season, you have to find ways to get through them and find ways to win.”
BACK AND FORTH
The Sabres twice held a one-goal lead in the second period but Calgary rallied back to tie the game each time.
Moulson struck first, capitalizing on a pass Ennis made from the left corner. Ennis knocked down TJ Brodie behind the net to steal the puck. He then sent it out front for Moulson to one time past Ramo 5:34 into the second.
Then, Flames captain Mark Giordano ripped a slap shot past Enroth on the power play with 8:27 remaining in the period.
Buffalo took the lead once again with 5:29 left when Foligno scored his third of the season. Drew Stafford worked the puck in from behind the net and, with Nicolas Deslauriers creating traffic, the puck found its way to Foligno to the left of the net.
Foligno almost had his second of the night with 3:43 to play in the period off a deflection of a point shot by Nikita Zadorov. However, the officials waved it off almost immediately and video replay confirmed that Foligno knocked it in with a high stick.
It was a productive night for Foligno, who was filling in at center. Stafford was mostly on his off-wing during the game, playing on the left side and Chris Stewart on the right. Nolan affectionately called it a “makeshift line” and was impressed with Foligno’s game.
“Marcus played well tonight, especially out of position, too,” Nolan said. “He was just starting to come on the left side and all of a sudden, you’ve got to put him in the middle. He played well tonight.”
David Jones hopped on a loose puck with 2:54 remaining in the second to make it 2-2 and Sean Monahan gave Calgary its first lead of the night 3:14 into the third period.
RALLY CAPS ON
Girgensons’ goal at the 7:59 mark of the third tied the game. Ennis dished a behind-the-back pass across the crease, hoping to find Moulson. But the puck went through him and to Girgensons, who buried it.
With his ninth goal of the season, Girgensons eclipsed his career-high of eight, which was set last year during his rookie campaign.
Then, a fortuitous bounce put Buffalo back in the lead. Moulson was in front of the net, tangled up with a Flames defenseman when Ennis threw the puck on net. Reaching back with his left foot, Moulson turned his skate to redirect it in. The NHL adjusted the rules to allow for more goals to be kicked in prior to the season and it paid off this time.
“I wish they would’ve changed that rule a couple years ago,” Moulson said. “Probably could’ve had a couple more goals.”
Cody McCormick left the game midway through the second period with a lower-body injury. Nolan said he should be OK for practice on Friday.
Buffalo is now 2-0-0 during their current four-game homestand. It’ll continue on Saturday when they play host to the Florida Panthers.