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on March 13, 2013 - 12:21 AM
, updated March 13, 2013 at 9:28 AM
When Jhonas Enroth learned Ryan Miller had a sinus infection, he knew it was nothing to sneeze at. The Sabres’ backup goaltender was getting another chance at victory, and in a rarity it would come in Buffalo.
As he sat in his locker stall accepting congratulatory handshakes with a smile on his face, it was obvious Enroth was savoring the long-awaited moment.
Enroth made 32 saves, and Marcus Foligno scored twice Tuesday to propel the Sabres to a 3-1 victory over the New York Rangers. Enroth was 0-10-3 in his previous 16 appearances and hadn’t won since beating Washington on Nov. 26, 2011.
The skid is in the past, which is where Enroth had tried to keep it.
“I’ve been trying to look forward and live in the moment and don’t think about the past because you can’t do anything about that,” he said. “I’ve just been focused on next game and try to stay positive. It feels good right now to finally get that win.”
Enroth learned Tuesday morning that Miller wasn’t feeling well, which gave him an unexpected start just five days after a bitter no-decision in New Jersey. He left the 3-2 shootout loss with 1:06 to play after cramps locked up his right leg.
“The last couple games he’s played unreal for us,” captain Jason Pominville said. “He was obviously disappointed in New Jersey, but he bounced back, made some big saves, kept us in the game early. He’s not the typical butterfly goalie that you usually see, but he gets the job done. Hopefully, it’ll be good for his confidence to get a win and play two solid back-to-back outings.”
While driving to sold-out First Niagara Center, Enroth thought about how long it had been since he played in the rink. The locals hadn’t see him on the ice since Jan. 7, 2012, but he gave the 19,070 in attendance reason to cheer as the team ended a four-game winless skid.
“It felt good to finally play at home,” Enroth said. “That was something I was very happy about, too. It’s really special.”
The Sabres won despite another forgettable night for their cellar-dwelling power play. It went 0 for 5 and allowed a short-handed goal, but Foligno and Thomas Vanek made up for it.
The Rangers opened the scoring when Ryan Callahan skated past Tyler Myers down the left side of the zone to create a passing lane. Jordan Leopold, back in the lineup after missing the previous nine with an upper-body injury, merely watched as Derek Stepan skated to the top of the crease for a tap-in with 4:17 gone in the second. Myers shrugged at Leopold as the power-play unit’s numbers fell to 11 goals for and five against.
Foligno answered just 1:18 later to end a long scoring drought. The winger, positioned at the right post, collected Christian Ehrhoff’s pass off the back boards and shot between his legs before Henrik Lundqvist could move across the crease. Foligno launched himself into the glass to celebrate his first goal in 21 games.
“We talk about that a lot with our team, just the importance of momentum and the shifts after crucial times in the game,” interim coach Ron Rolston said. “That was a huge goal for us to be able to bounce back.”
Vanek gave the Sabres a 2-1 lead with plenty of help from Pominville. The captain bounced a long breakout pass off the boards to set up a breakaway for Vanek. The Sabres’ leading scorer easily beat Lundqvist with 7:20 left in the second, chipping the puck past the goalie on the stick side for his 14th goal and 30th point.
New York rallied with the opening 11 shots of the third period. When the Sabres finally took one with 8:12 left, it resulted in a two-goal lead.
Lundqvist stopped Andrej Sekera’s point shot, but Foligno immediately whacked the rebound between the goalie’s pads.
The rookie hit the glass again as the Sabres relished their breathing room. They get three days to exhale before hosting Ottawa on Saturday.
Enroth will probably smile throughout the respite.
“We’re really happy for him and his performance,” Rolston said. “To see him come back and have a big smile is really gratifying.”