ST. LOUIS – While the game results haven’t gone the Buffalo Sabres’ way recently, they’re looking for moments that they can use to build chemistry and foster a winning environment.
In Buffalo’s 6-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center, one incident might help the team become a tighter group.
It was 2-0 with 6:49 to play in the second when Sabres forward Tyler Ennis was hit after the whistle by Ian Cole. Ennis had broken in on a scoring chance that Blues goaltender Brian Elliott covered up. Ennis tumbled down along the end boards as a result of the hit and as he made his way back up to his feet, a scrum between all the skaters on the ice broke out in the right corner.
Rookie defenseman Nikita Zadorov was one of the players involved and dropped the gloves with Cole. Ennis ended up fighting Alexander Steen.
“I thought it was a late hit,” Ennis said. “I went in the scrum there and I was trying to give him a couple shots. Steen came in out of nowhere. I didn’t know he had his gloves off. Then I was in one. I didn’t know until about 10 seconds in that he had his gloves off.”
Zadorov hasn’t been with the team for very long – he was playing in only his 13th NHL game – but he saw the need to get involved in the play.
“You can’t hit after the whistle and I think it was a dirty play,” he said. “That’s why I stepped up for my partner.”
There have been times when the Sabres haven’t stepped up for teammates, but Tuesday night was not one of those them. In fact, at the start of the third period, another skirmish broke out involving players like Buffalo’s Cody McCormick and Chris Stewart and Steen and Jay Bouwmeester of the Blues.
“We responded to it and it was the first time we responded all year,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. “…We’re still learning and we’re still growing.
“…You build it piece by piece. Down the road, these guys will hopefully be better for it. You have to respond.”
There are many new faces in the Sabres dressing room this year and they’re still working to establish themselves as a tough team to play against. The players believe that having moments like this in games can help them in the long run.
“It’s all part of coming together,” Sabres captain Brian Gionta said. “When someone takes an exception on one of your guys, to stick up for them and show that that’s not going to be acceptable, that’s good for our team.”
Ennis, who later scored Buffalo’s lone goal on the power-play, understood the significance of his teammates jumping in like they did and that it’s a positive they can take moving forward.
“I was very happy and proud of my teammates. I owe them one for having my back. I really appreciate that,” he said. “The guys that stepped up for me, they were all over Steen there for awhile. That’s what teams do. Good teams, tight teams, we stick up for each other and that was really nice to see.”
Several Blues had multi-point nights. Jori Lehtera scored a hat trick, Joakim Lindstrom scored twice, Jaden Schwartz and Steen had three assists a piece and Kevin Shattenkirk and Vladimir Tarasenko each recorded a pair of assists.
St. Louis scored three power-play goals late in the third period to cushion the lead after Nicolas Deslauriers was given a match penalty for spearing Vladimir Tarasenko. Until the Blues took advantage of that five-minute power play, it was a tight game and it’s something the coaching staff hopes the players can take to heart.
Brian Elliott made 28 saves. He improved to 11-0-2 all-time against Buffalo. Sabres goaltender Michal Neuvirth stopped 23 shots.
Sabres defenseman Gorges’ took his last shift 2:33 into the second period. He crashed into the end boards behind the Buffalo net while making a hit on Lindstrom. Gorges went to the dressing room after the play and did not return due to a lower-body injury.
Nolan said after the game that he’ll miss at least the team’s next game, which is on Thursday in Minnesota at 8 p.m. EST.