Matt Moulson snapped the Sabres’ power play woes and the Sabres ended their six-game losing streak against Montreal with a 2-1 victory in the first game of a home-and-home set with the Canadiens Friday night at First Niagara Center.
After coming into the contest with a league-worst 6.2 percent success rate with the man advantage, Buffalo had already squandered three power play attempts on the night when Montreal’s Alexei Emelin was sent to the box for a hit to the head of Brian Gionta late in the third period.
Thirty-six seconds later, Tyler Ennis slapped a shot that would bounce off of the glass and back in front of the net. Canadiens goaltender Carey Price mistakenly tried to play the puck behind the net, leaving Moulson with the wide open shot for the lead.
“When we’re playing good and our confidence is up, you seem to get those breaks sometimes,” Moulson said afterward. “We need to keep building on those breaks and stay positive.”
If Moulson’s goal was a lucky break, the shot that first got the Sabres on the board was anything but. Early in the first period, Tyler Ennis rushed towards the net from the left side, hopped over the right pad of Price and, after re-gaining possession, snapped a backhand shot into the net from 11 feet out.
“That’s one of those goals you’re going to be looking at probably for the rest of the season,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. “That was one beautiful goal.”
“You look at his skill set and the way he competes, the things he can do with the puck, I mean a couple times he almost flipped the puck to himself … he’s highly skilled and it’s great seeing him play the way he’s capable of playing.”
Ennis’ goal gave the Sabres a lead they wouldn’t relinquish until early in the third period, when Montreal took advantage of a power play to tie the game at one. Jhonas Enroth initially had his right skate on the puck in the midst of a scrum in front of the net, but the lack of a whistle allowed P.A. Parenteau to push the puck through to tie the game.
Afterward, there was some debate as to whether or not Enroth had the puck covered.
“[The ref] said that I need to cover it 100 percent. If you ask me, I say I covered it with my foot. It shouldn’t matter if you cover it with your glove or if your foot or whatever,” Enroth said. “It is what it is; I just tried to get that behind me.”
Enroth did just that, stopping the Canadiens from there on out and posting 30 saves in total. Following the victory, he’s gone 268:35 without allowing an even-strength goal.
“I think we played real well against a real good team,” Enroth said. “It was a real hard-working game, so it feels good to get these two points.”
After missing Wednesday night’s game against Winnipeg with a lower body injury, Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers was ready to go Friday as he played a team-high 27:28 in the victory.
Myers returned to his spot on the Sabres’ top defensive pairing alongside Tyson Strachan, who is filling in for an injured Josh Gorgers. The defender’s presence, his goaltender said, helped change the outcome from Wednesday night’s loss.
“He’s a big body obviously and he has that long stick making great plays,” Enroth said. “It’s nice to have him around.”
Drew Stafford did not return to the bench at the beginning of the second period after sustaining a lower body injury in the first. After the game, Nolan stressed the impact of losing the winger mid-game.
“You lose a guy like Stafford, we’re down and guys were having to buckle down and I was extremely proud of them,” he said.
Nolan said that Stafford will make the trip to Montreal for tomorrow night’s game, but the team will “more than likely” call up a forward in case he is unable to play.
“He said he feels a lot better,” Nolan said. “He’ll do a morning skate tomorrow and hopefully he’s in.”
With the Sabres heading to play in Montreal tomorrow night, Stafford isn’t the only question mark – Nolan has not yet decided whether or not he will start Enroth in net for a second-consecutive night.
“I haven’t spoke to Jhonas yet, but we’ll have a chat on the plane to see how he feels and we’ll make that decision,” he said.
After the game, Enroth said that should he get the start, he’ll be ready to go.
“I would like to play tomorrow. This is what I’m working for, to play a lot of games so I’m ready.”
Enroth has played back-to-back once so far this season, when he started at home against Florida on Oct. 17 and Boston on Oct. 18. Enroth let in four of Boston’s 40 shots that night, but says he felt fine going into the game.
“Every game is different,” he said. “I’ve played one back-to-back so far and I felt pretty fresh in the second game we played against Boston … it’s definitely tough, especially with traveling, but it all depends on how you feel the next day.”