The Sabres proved embarrassment can be a powerful motivator.
One game after delivering one of the worst performances in years, Buffalo responded this afternoon with an intense, well-rounded 1-0 victory over Philadelphia. Jhonas Enroth backstopped the Sabres with 29 saves, while Christian Ehrhoff scored the only goal just seconds into the final period.
The Sabres had an immeasurably better effort than their previous game, a 5-1 debacle against Montreal on Thursday. They promised more, and they delivered.
The Sabres broke a scoreless tie with just 17 seconds gone in the third period. After a faceoff in the Flyers’ zone, Ehrhoff took a hard slap shot from the point. It went wide left, but the carom came directly to the front near the post, hit goaltender Steve Mason and trickled in.
Enroth made a huge save with 50 seconds left to preserve the shutout, stopping Wayne Simmonds in the slot.
Patrick Kaleta opened the game with a one-sided beatdown of Flyers defenseman Oliver Lauridsen. The 6-foot-6, 220-pound rookie started the fight with a couple of cross-checks, but he probably wishes he hadn’t. Kaleta unleashed 13 straight left hands to drop Lauridsen to the ice before he ever through a punch.
Kaleta exhorted the crowd on the way to the penalty box, drawing a loud ovation.
The rest of the first period was uneventful, which in the case of Chad Ruhwedel’s shifts was a good thing. The Sabres signed the college free agent from UMass Lowell just prior to the game. He left school after a junior season that featured getting named a first-team All American.
Jhonas Enroth turned aside 10 shots in the opening 20 minutes, while Mason stopped Buffalo’s six attempts. Enroth made the best save of the period, sliding across the crease to thwart Simmonds, who batted the puck out of the air toward the cage with nine minutes left.
Buffalo outshot Philly, 9-8, during the second period and outchanced them, too. Mason was sharp in keeping the game scoreless.
The goalie’s first big stop came on Drew Stafford with six minutes gone. With the Sabres short-handed, Kevin Porter’s pass during a two-on-one set up Stafford all alone. Mason easily covered the quick shot.
He stopped the new line of Cody Hodgson centering left wing Tyler Ennis and right wing Thomas Vanek twice, with Mason’s glove doing the work both times.
A tic-tac-toe play by all three linemates put Hodgson alone near the slot, but Mason covered up with 10 minutes gone. Less than three minutes later, the goalie got a piece of a rocket by Vanek.
The wall put up by Mason continued through the final minute. Another odd-man rush concluded with Steve Ott setting up Porter, but Mason got his arm on the blast to send the teams toward intermission still deadlocked.
Interim coach Ron Rolston juggled all his lines, with Ennis getting pulled from center and Marcus Foligno moving to the middle as the biggest switches. Porter opened between Ott and right wing Brian Flynn. Jochen Hecht centered Nathan Gerbe and Kaleta. Foligno was flanked by John Scott and Stafford.