on January 18, 2014 - 10:12 PM
, updated January 19, 2014 at 1:01 AM
Ted Nolan’s ability to coax the best out of certain players is well-known. He did it during his first stint on the Sabres’ bench with guys such as Derek Plante, Brian Holzinger and Bob Boughner. It’s happening again, and it’s not hard to see who is improving.
Tyler Myers and Tyler Ennis continued their fine play Saturday night, and they also extended Buffalo’s point-earning run. Myers had two goals, including the tying tally with 24.9 seconds left, and Ennis added two assists in the Sabres’ 4-3 shootout loss to Columbus.
“I don’t know which one played better,” Nolan said. “You can flip a coin and it would probably land on its side. They both played a great game.”
Ennis improved his totals to eight goals and 15 points in 27 games under Nolan. Myers has five goals and 11 points in 24 games. Each took the time to praise the other.
“When he’s wheeling, he’s phenomenal,” Ennis said. “For 6-feet-8, it’s pretty crazy how fast and how fluent he is on the ice.”
Said Myers: “He was dancing right from the start, and that’s what we need Enner to do. He’s got some moves that are pretty special to watch. When he pulls them out for 60 minutes like he did, he’s a player that’s hard to stop.”
Ennis did well setting up goals, but he had a tough time scoring them. Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky stopped all of Ennis’ game-high seven shots and added another save in the shootout.
“It would be nice to have one of those go in for me,” the center said.
Both of Myers’ goals came when the defenseman pinched from the point and fired from the right circle. He scored in the opening minute after a cross-ice pass from Matt Moulson, and he found the net in the final minute after a feed from Cody Hodgson.
“It’s just a matter of trying to improve every day I come to the rink, rediscovering my game again,” said the 2010 Rookie of the Year, who played his 300th game. “I’m heading in a great direction right now, and it’s just a matter of building off it.”
The tying goal came with Columbus’ David Savard in the penalty box and Ryan Miller pulled, giving the Sabres a six-on-four. The power-play goal eased the sting of a rough night for Buffalo’s penalty killers.
The list of things the Sabres have done well this season isn’t very long. Penalty killing is certainly on it, however, and it’s near the top – if you forget about Saturday. Columbus tied the game, 2-2, just a second after Myers’ penalty ended and went ahead with a power-play goal midway through the second.
“It was a good feeling to get the tying goal and give us a chance in overtime,” Myers said. “It’s just going to show that we’re starting to get some character play in this room. That’s what we need from this group. You can see it turning. It’s just a matter of keep pushing.”
Sabres fans who show up late haven’t missed much this season, at least from the home team. Buffalo entered the night with only 13 goals in first periods this year. It increased that total by 15 percent Saturday.
The Sabres scored twice in the opening period. They also allowed two goals, continuing the offensive explosion that started during Tuesday’s five-goal third period with Philadelphia.
Brandon Dubinsky scored on a mad scramble in front to make it 3-2. A puck crossed the goal line one other time in the second, just 24 seconds in. But video review showed it did so after a distinct kicking motion by Matt Moulson, so the goal quickly came off the scoreboard.
“The goal being called back was a momentum changer,” said Ennis, whose rebound went to Moulson. “I was pretty disappointed. When it was called a goal on the ice, it’s pretty hard to go against the call. For me it didn’t look like enough of a distinct kick motion to be called back.
“It was frustrating, but those are the breaks a last-place team seems to get.”
They’re starting to make a few of their own breaks, however. Scoring in the final minute against a team that has won six straight is the latest.
“To come out here against a team that’s been going really well, it’s a good feeling to tie that up,” right wing Drew Stafford said. “It’s just unfortunate we couldn’t get the second point.”