After winning their past three games, a slow start cost the Buffalo Sabres a chance at four victories in a row.
Winnipeg Jets forward Bryan Little scored 3:41 into the game on the power play as the Jets beat Buffalo 2-1 at First Niagara Center.
Little now has 20 points (9+11) in 23 career games against the Sabres. Martin Frolik scored shorthanded to give the Jets a 2-0 lead 5:40 into the second and Sabres forward Chris Stewart brought the Sabres within striking distance when he scored his second of the season 5:30 into the third.
“The first period or first period-and-a-half or so, I thought our hands were handling the puck like a grenade,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. “It just kept bouncing and bouncing. We couldn’t get a hold of it.
“And then all of a sudden in the third period, we played the way we have to play in order to be successful. I think the biggest message here tonight, we have to play like that for 60 minutes.”
With both Jets goals scored on special teams tonight, Jhonas Enroth still hasn't allowed an even-strength goal in his last 208:35 on the ice, posting a 1.50 goals-against average and a .956 save percentage in the team's last three games.
Enroth made 24 saves while Winnipeg netminder Ondrej Pavelec stopped 19 shots.
Patrick Kaleta took a hard hit with 5:54 to play in the second period when he was checked from behind into the end boards in the Winnipeg zone by Adam Lowry.
Kaleta is wearing a shield on his mask because of an injury to his face in the preseason that required surgery. His head hit the glass behind the net with a hard impact and he was slow to get up.
He returned for the third period and played 7:30 in his second game of the season. He was credited with six hits and drew two penalties.
Kaleta said he cut his face open and had to get his teeth and jaw checked out by team doctors after the hit.
“That’s the way it happens sometimes,” he said. “If you follow my career and stuff like that, you’ll notice I’m attracted to that sort of stuff. It is what it is and I’ll be fine.”
Andrej Meszaros was the first man after Lowry after the hit, but Stewart had the biggest impact, skating down the ice to go after the Jets center. Stewart and Jets defenseman Adam Pardy each received two-minute roughing minors while Lowry was slapped with a five-minute boarding major and a 10-minute game misconduct.
The Sabres had a power play coming, but Winnipeg was the team that made the most of it, scoring 14 seconds into it to take a 2-0 lead.
“I first looked at the referee and I wanted to make sure there was a power play or not,” Meszaros said. “I kind of went there and kind of cross-checked him and didn’t want to jump in that hard because I knew we were going to have a power play. We were down and then [Stewart] jumped in there. We got the power play, but we didn’t do a whole lot.”
Even after the goal, the Sabres weren’t able to generate much with the man advantage. Buffalo’s power play went 0-for-4 on the evening.
“We’ve got to create chances and at least get some momentum, especially on the five-minute power play there,” Sabres captain Brian Gionta said. “To give one up, it’s a tough one and to not really generate much. Our execution was off that whole power play.”
Tyler Myers did not play due to a lower-body injury. No lineup changes on the blue line were expected, but when Myers didn’t take the ice for warmups, it became apparent that he was going to sit this one out.
He was scheduled to have a maintenance day on Tuesday, but took the ice late as practice was starting to wind down. He did not participate in the optional morning sakte before the game.
Nolan said that they found out Myers was going to be unavailable at around 1 p.m. on Wednesday.
“He was feeling good and then all of a sudden, the injury just kind of went south on him,” Nolan said. “We were surprised a little bit.”
The Sabres will practice Thursday morning and will play again Friday when they host the Montreal Canadiens in the first half of a home-and-home series.