Ville Leino got benched for the final 40 minutes of Thursday’s game at Florida for taking an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that resulted in a power-play goal. Afterward, the Sabres winger didn’t crab about the decision by interim coach Ron Rolston and instead said it was a stupid penalty.
Rolston put Leino right back in the lineup Saturday night against Washington and got exactly the reaction he wanted to see.
Leino scored a pair of second-period goals – his first of the season and first at home in more than 15 months – to stake the Sabres to a 3-1 lead but it was hard to celebrate them as they went to waste in a 4-3 shootout loss.
“Obviously I wanted to bounce back. It’s not fun [to be benched],” Leino said. “You want to be at your best when the games are on the line, the playoffs are on the line and games are big. That’s when you should go out there and enjoy it, not be nervous.”
“He played well for us tonight,” Rolston said. “Got to the net. Both the goals he got to the net on.”
Leino had one previous multi-goal game for the Sabres, coming March 5, 2012 in Vancouver. He had eight goals last season, the last five all coming on the road.
Leino pumped home a Tyler Ennis rebound at 1:21 and then had a tap-in at 10:16 as Tyler Myers’ shot from the left point leaked through Caps goalie Braden Holtby into the open goal crease. He went to the net in both cases and got rewarded.
“We have to stay aggressive,” Leino said. “We start games really aggressive. Some games we do really well. We just got to keep it going 60 minutes. It’s not enough to do 40 or 20.”
Despite the loss, Jhonas Enroth kept up his hot play since Rolston took over from Lindy Ruff. In four starts under Rolston, Enroth is 2-0-2 with a 1.95 goals-against average and .940 save percentage.
“He played well tonight for us again, which is a great sign,” Rolston said. “That’s four starts he’s played really well for us. Very positive.”
Enroth draw a standing ovation from much of the crowd for diving to his left to spear a rebound attempt by Mike Ribeiro midway through overtime, perhaps the best of his 35 saves on the night.
“I’m moving my feet better now. That was a good save,” Enroth said.”
Rookie defenseman Mark Pysyk was scheduled to be a healthy scratch for Saturday’s game but got back in the lineup when Jordan Leopold was traded prior to the game. Pysyk, the team’s No. 1 draft pick in 2010, doesn’t figure to come out of the lineup again.
“Mark is going to be a very good NHL player and this is a test period for him,” said General Manager Darcy Regier.
Pysyk, a scratch Thursday at Florida, played 13:52 Saturday and was not on the ice for any goals. In Leopold’s absence, Tyler Myers played a season-high 28:13 and Christian Ehrhoff played 26:19 in his 600th career NHL game, just over his average of 25:09.
With Leopold gone and Robyn Regehr a good bet to be dealt by Wednesday’s trade deadline, the Sabres will not be calling up Brayden McNabb from Rochester. He’s out for the season with a knee injury suffered last Saturday night against Houston.
McNabb had a goal and seven assists in 25 games for Buffalo last season. He did not make the NHL this year and played 62 games in Rochester, collecting five goals and 31 assists while playing mostly with Pysyk.
“He and Mark played together and were playing very well together,” Regier said. “It’s unfortunate for his development and for us certainly as well.”
Caps star Alex Ovechkin had 10 shots on goal, had four others blocked and was wide on three. His goal gave him a seven-game point streak (seven goals, four assists). ... If Ryan Miller plays tonight’s game here against Boston, he will tie Dominik Hasek’s franchise record for games by a goaltender with 491. Miller already owns the franchise victory record with 263. ... John Scott was the only healthy scratch. Winger Thomas Vanek took the morning skate but Rolston said he wasn’t ready to go yet. Rolston did not rule Vanek out of tonight’s game.