NEWARK, N.J. – In a grind-it-out type of game Saturday night between the Buffalo Sabres and the New Jersey Devils, it came down to the last shot.
Steve Bernier wristed a shot over Sabres goaltender Jhonas Enroth with 40.2 seconds remaining in overtime to give the Devils a 1-0 victory at Prudential Center.
It was the second straight game the Sabres have taken to overtime as they skated away with a 3-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs the night before. The Sabres collected three out of four points on the weekend.
“It wasn’t the most exciting hockey game, but when you come on the road, that’s what you want to do and overall, I like the way we competed from the second period on,” Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said.
Enroth ended the game with 23 saves. He made eight saves in the first period and did his part to keep the Devils off the scoresheet. He stopped multiple point-blank chances from the likes of Patrick Elias and Travis Zajac.
Enroth’s last start came two weeks ago on Nov. 16 in Toronto. Nolan challenged Enroth to have a better outing in his next start and Enroth was able to do that against the Devils.
“Our goaltending’s been great. Jhonas came in tonight and gave us that chance. He made some big saves for us, particularly in the first period,” Nolan said. “I didn’t think we had our legs in the first. I thought we got it going in the second a little bit better and it just came down to will in the third period and we took it to overtime.”
Enroth had been previously been between the pipes for three 1-0 games, however, all of them were regulation wins.
The Sabres got off to a slow start in a tight defensive game, finishing the first period with only three shots on goal.
“They’re successful year after year for a reason. They play a strong team game and frustrate a lot of teams,” Sabres forward Matt Moulson said. “I thought we played awful in the first and they were jumping. [Enroth] kept us in there. I thought we just had to play a little better. We had our chances. They had chances as well but you’ve got to find a way to come away with the victory.”
Sabres defenseman Mark Pysyk echoed the need to play a full 60 minutes.
“We didn’t start out how we wanted to. The first period wasn’t our best,” he said. “We found it a little bit in the second and the third. We were patient, scoring chances both ways but it was a tight defensive game. And then it came down to one play.”
The Sabres controlled play for much of the second period, out-shooting the Devils 8-5. Factor in blocked shots and missed chances, and the Sabres fired 11 more shots toward the net than New Jersey that period. It helped that the Sabres had three power-play opportunities. However, they were unable to convert on any of them.
“If you don’t score on the power play – obviously you’re not going to score every time – you have to make sure you are creating momentum for the team and getting chances and jumping,” Moulson said. “We got our chances. Myself, I had a couple glorious passes and couldn’t bury it so obviously you always want to be successful on the power play. I thought we moved around well, but we have to keep working, though.
The lack of offense, however, has been a source of frustration for much of the season.
“It’s getting old,” Enroth said. “We’ve got to find a way to score some goals and find a way to win games, but we’re working on that every day, trying to get better here.”
Sabres rookie forward Brian Flynn committed the first penalty of his career. He’d gone 52 games without being sent to the box before taking a hooking penalty 4:57 into the third period.
The Sabres will be able to get in a few days of practice before their next game. They don’t play again until they host the New York Rangers on Thursday at 7 p.m. at First Niagara Center.