MONTREAL – The Buffalo Sabres are winners of five of their past six games and feeling more confident than they have at any other point this season.
Brian Flynn scored the game-tying goal and added the shootout winner in the bottom of the fifth round as the Sabres topped the Montreal Canadiens 4-3 at Bell Centre on Saturday. Jhonas Enroth made 41 saves and stopped all five of the Canadiens’ attempts in the shootout.
The shootout victory over Montreal allowed Buffalo to sweep the home-and-home series against the Canadiens, who are tied for first-place in the League. The Sabres have now swept their last three home-and-home sets against the Habs after never sweeping any of the first 22. Buffalo beat Montreal 2-1 at First Niagara Center on Friday.
“I think just in general, we’ve started to play a lot better so we’re building off that. We feel more confident,” Flynn said. “Coming in here, after we beat them last night, we knew we were going to get their best so getting the win here, we realize if we play they way we’re capable, we can play with anyone.”
Flynn, Zemgus Girgensons and Chris Stewart were Buffalo’s goal scorers in regulation. Stewart now has goals in two of the past three games after having only one through his first 21.
“To get a big two points at home and come in here and get another two, that’s a big step for us in the right direction,” Stewart said.
The Sabres held a 2-1 lead thanks to Stewart’s goal 5:57 into the third period before the Canadiens came back 2:26 later. Montreal then took the lead with 6:45 remaining on a goal from Max Pacioretty. The tying goal for Buffalo came as a result of strong play from Flynn’s line.
After center Torrey Mitchell started the cycle, former Canadiens captain – and now Sabres captain – Brian Gionta circled around the back of the net and sent a backhand pass out to the front of the net. Flynn was able to put home the nice feed just 49 seconds after Pacioretty’s tally.
“Especially tonight, the way it was done. Going down and the crowd was really into it. But we found a way,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. “That was a big win, for sure.”
Enroth started his third game in four nights and improved to 4-1-0 in the past five games, with a .952 save percentage and a 1.69 goals-against average. He was sturdy in net on Saturday, coming up with a few big saves when the team needed them.
“I’m more comfortable and now I’ve been putting a couple games together,” he said. “It’s been, I think, five good games in a row for [me].”
Enroth was in command during the shootout, with Alex Galchenyuk’s shot that hit the post in the top of the first round being the only attempt that got the best of him. Enroth has allowed only one goal in 13 shootout attempts this season, improving to 2-0 on the season.
Flynn was the only goal scorer in the shootout. He improves to 2-for-4 in the shootout in his career with his first career game-deciding goal.
“If he saves five in a row, you need to win him that game,” Flynn said of his goaltender.
As for his shootout move, it’s one he’s been crafting for some time now.
“You try to have one go-to move there when you’re working in practice in case Teddy threw me in there. That was mine,” he said. “I just kind of slowed down, faked a shot, pulled it hard to the backhand and back to the forehand. Fortunately, he kind of bit when I pulled it to my backhand.”
Buffalo carried a 1-0 lead into the first intermission thanks to a goal from Girgensons with 5:57 remaining in the opening period. On a rush into the Montreal zone, all three Buffalo forwards crashed the net.
Starting down the right wing, Nicolas Deslauriers centered the puck and Tyler Ennis knocked it over to Girgensons, who was able to chip it up and into the net past Dustin Tokarski.
Girgensons now has seven points (4+3) in his past seven games and Ennis has 13 points (4+9) in his past 12 games and eight points (3+5) in his past eight.
Montreal tied the game on a shot by Brendan Gallagher in the second period. Through traffic, Gallagher let loose a wrist shot that cranked off the post and parallel to the goal line. The puck came out the other side and was initially ruled to have not gone in by the officials.
However, after a lengthy review at the next stoppage, the play was ruled a good goal and the League issued the following explanation:
“At 7:51 of the second period in the Buffalo Sabres/Montreal Canadiens game, the Situation Room initiated a video review to further examine a play at the Buffalo net. Video review determined that Brendan Gallagher's shot struck the left post and completely crossed the goal line before hitting the stick of Sabres goaltender Jhonas Enroth. Good goal Montreal.”
Buffalo regained the lead to make it 2-1 when Stewart broke free from two Canadiens players to cut in on goal and roof a shot over Tokarski.
The play developed in a similar fashion to the goal Stewart scored on Wednesday against Winnipeg. Marcus Foligno blocked a shot and the puck squirted out into the neutral zone. Stewart then used his burst to get past the D and score in alone on the goaltender.
“There’s something about this Foligno guy. He just keeps blocking pucks and sending me on breakaways,” Stewart said. “I don’t know what it is.”
WELCOME TO THE SHOW
Tim Schaller made his NHL debut on the same night Gionta played in his 800th career game (and his first at Bell Centre since leaving Montreal as a free agent in the summer).
With Drew Stafford out of the lineup due to a lower-body injury sustained in the first period of Friday night’s game, the Sabres needed to make a call-up from the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League.
Schaller was their man. The Amerks played on Friday as well so Schaller headed out to Montreal on Saturday. He missed the morning skate, but made it in time for the game.
He helped kill off a key penalty in the third period against Montreal and skated 11:52, including some big minutes in crunch time in the third period.
“It’s late in the third period and the score’s tied 3-3 in your first game in the National Hockey League and you’ve got to work in the last five minutes of the period, [that] speaks high volumes of him,” Nolan said. “I really liked his game tonight.”
Before the game, Nolan said they hope Stafford will be ready to return to the lineup Tuesday night for their home against the Tampa Bay Lightning at 7:30 p.m.