The Buffalo Sabres are used to playing tight games against the New Jersey Devils and Friday’s contest at First Niagara Center proved to be another close one.
New Jersey hung around and eventually took the lead in the second period. After that, they limited Buffalo’s chances to come away with a 3-1 victory.
Matt Moulson tallied for Buffalo and Anders Lindback made 24 saves. Steve Bernier scored twice for New Jersey and Jordan Tootoo also put one home. Keith Kinkaide turned aside 28 shots.
“They try to lull you to sleep and they wait for those turnovers,” Sabres forward Tyler Ennis said. “They capitalize on them and that’s what they did. We turned one over and it ended up in the back of our net. They’re a really good defensive team so they shut the door.”
Buffalo had the lead for a brief moment 7:05 into the game when Johan Larsson crashed the net and put the puck in past Kinkaide. However, Larsson had his stick tied up and was forced to kick it in. Upon review, the goal was disallowed.
Sabres coach Ted Nolan saw that as a turning point in the game.
“You get a lead on New Jersey, it’s a different game, but when you try to go from behind on them, they clog up the middle and it gets to be a pretty boring game,” Nolan said. “But it’s effective for them.”
Larsson has put an emphasis on going to the front of the net and he’s generated quite a few scoring chances the past few games. He had another opportunity in the slot later on in the second.
“I always try to get in front there,” he said. “That’s the area you score and you have to be there. [Matt Moulson] and Ennis are two dangerous guys who will get the puck there.”
Not long after Larsson’s second chance, the Devils took the lead and didn’t look back. Bernier converted on a cross-ice one-timer with 9:08 into the second period to open the scoring. He scored again with 6:07 remaining in the period for what would end up being the deciding goal.
Tootoo made it 3-0 at the 8:14 mark of the third period, cutting in around the Sabres defense to capitalize.
The Sabres power play scored for the third-straight game. This time it was Matt Moulson tapping in a rebound on the goal line to snap Keith Kinkaid’s shutout bid with 8:19 remaining in regulation.
The first unit, consisting of Moulson, Ennis, Larsson, captain Brian Gionta and Rasmus Ristolainen, have been responsible for all three of those goals. On Friday, a slap shot from the right wing by Gionta ended up on the left wing, where Ennis wound up for another big shot. His shot deflected out onto the goal line, where Moulson has been able to tap it in.
Ennis moved to the point three games ago and that switch has helped the special teams unit be more effective.
“I’m just trying to be as mobile as possible. On the power play, you need a lot of movement,” Ennis said. “I’m trying to bring that creative side back there and it’s working. I think our power play is really clicking.”
WAKE UP CALL UP
After the morning skate, Buffalo made some roster moves, sending center Tim Schaller and defenseman Chad Ruhwedel back to the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League and calling up center Mikhail Grigorenko.
Grigorenko has a goal and an assist in 14 NHL games so far this season. In Rochester this year, he has appeared in 40 games and has tallied 33 points (12+21).
Nolan said the reason for calling up Grigorenko was primarily to check in on him. Nolan wasn’t sure how long Grigorenko would remain with the team but wants to see more from him.
“Just give him a look, see how he’s progressing. Right now, guys are vying for jobs and we’re seeing how they respond,” Nolan said. “You look at Larsson, he’s making a good name for himself and really taken advantage of it. Phil Varone’s doing it. Grigorenko, his first game here, he has to learn to do that also.”
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
The Sabres are back in action Saturday night with a game in Nashville. Faceoff against the Predators is scheduled for 8 p.m. EST with the Tops Game Night pregame show beginning at 7:30 p.m. EST on MSG-B and Bell. Nolan said that the team may turn to Matt Hackett in goal for that game.
They’ll then head out to Dallas to wrap-up the two-game road trip with a date against the Stars on Monday at 8:30 p.m. EST.