MONTREAL – Score one for interim coach Ron Rolston’s line shuffling and confidence in Jhonas Enroth. Score a big one for the embattled Buffalo Sabres’ power play, too.
Rolston gave hints Sunday he was going to break up the team’s forward combinations, made good on the promise Tuesday night and got instant results. Moved up to the top line, agitator Steve Ott scored a first-period goal and then banged home the winner on an overtime power play as Buffalo beat the Montreal Canadiens, 3-2, at the Bell Centre.
But there’s no way the Sabres, who were 1-3-3 in their previous seven games, snap their two-game skid without Enroth. The backup goalie who went nearly 16 months without a win made 32 saves and has now posted back-to-back victories in eight days.
“Jhonas was awesome tonight,” Ott said.
Enroth had to be sharp in the final 40 minutes as the Habs outshot Buffalo, 26-8, in that span and dominated play in the Sabres’ zone. But the Sabres kept battling, as evidenced by the fact they blocked 23 shots in the game.
Buffalo had a 2-0 lead through two periods before Max Pacioretty scored at 7:04 of the third and the Habs kept bringing the heat until an unguarded Colby Armstrong slid a backhander by Enroth from the doorstep with 3:51 left. That brought Montreal even and sparked bedlam in the roaring sellout crowd of 21,273.
Enroth’s biggest save came with 15.9 seconds left, when he quickly slid to his left to rob Brian Gionta and keep the game tied. It preserved one point for the Sabres and gave them the chance for two.
“Huge,” Rolston said. “Just huge.”
“I saw him coming on the far post there and I saw the puck the whole way too,” Enroth said. “I don’t think he got that good of a shot but for sure that was a real good save. I’m moving a little bit better and challenging the shooters more.”
In the overtime, Tyler Ennis beat P.K. Subban on the first rush and drew a high-stick penalty after just 17 seconds. The Sabres, still dead last in the NHL with the man advantage, had three shots on goal and converted with one second left on the penalty as Ott converted the rebound of Jordan Leopold’s slapshot from the left circle.
“There’s no reason we can’t move the puck like other power plays around the league,” Leopold said. “It comes down to a little bit of confidence. That’s probably a booster but we’ve got to build on it.”
The Sabres had two power-play opportunities in the second period with a chance to go up by three goals and failed, so they were especially happy to atone for that.
“I think you score that third one, you put the game to bed and it’s over,” Ott said. “We didn’t and what happens is they score two goals and keep pushing.”
The win came with a cost, however. Leading scorer Thomas Vanek, dropped off the top line and moved to the second unit with Tyler Ennis and Ville Leino, left in the second period with a lower-body injury after getting struck in the hip by a Christian Ehrhoff shot. He’s day to day.
Ott, who snapped a 13-game drought with his first multi-goal game as a Sabre, reveled in the chance to play with Cody Hodgson and Jason Pominville and opened the scoring with a wicked slapshot from the slot past Carey Price at 7:47 of the first.
“It’s a treat playing with those guys,” Ott said. “They’re both highly, highly skilled. Cody is an up-and-coming first-line superstar centerman with his hands and Pommer is Pommer.”
The lines looked good in the first period as Buffalo controlled play and had 10 shots on goal. Ott capitalized on a brutal pass up the middle by Subban for the first goal and Ennis roamed in front for a mid-air tip of a Tyler Myers wrister to make it 2-0 with 1:01 left in the period.
“I liked the way our lines were going,” Rolston said. “I liked the fact that we’re building a resilient nature but we also have to build the confidence in those games to be able to finish them off.”