Christian Ehrhoff wasn’t looking to add offense to his game, but when your team is struggling to score, you don’t pass up opportunities, and he scored on two of them.
Taking advantage of some holes in Carolina’s forechecking, Ehrhoff skated the puck into the Hurricanes zone, held it and found the right angle to throw the puck on the net to give the Buffalo Sabres a 3-2 win Tuesday night.
There were 18,719 at First Niagara Center to watch the first NHL game back from the Olympic break, thanks to a necessary rescheduling from the January blizzard.
And the fans were treated to a steal by Ryan Miller, who kept the Sabres in game as the Hurricanes dominated play and shots on goal, 38-18.
“It had a lot to do with Millsie again,” Ehrhoff said. “He made some huge saves for us. He was very sharp. He was our best player again tonight and it wasn’t our best effort. It was a little sloppy at times, a little rust coming off the break probably. We have to make sure tomorrow we are cleaner on our plays.”
Ehrhoff scored his fifth and sixth goals of the season.
The defenseman gave the Sabres a 1-0 lead at 5:54 of the second period when his shot from the blue line trickled past Carolina goalie Cam Ward for a power play tally.
With the score tied, 2-2, he skated into the Hurricane’s zone to score with 44 seconds left in regulation giving the Sabres the win.
“I don’t want to force it,” said Ehrhoff, who now has seven points in his last seven games. “You’ve got to find the right time of when to do it. Today a couple of times I got the opportunity and especially on the last play, the way they forecheck, I saw a hole and just skated into it.”
Eric Staal evened the game for the Hurricanes at 16:52 of the second.
In the third, Tyler Ennis pushed a puck that was sitting on the goal line into the back of the net to again give the Sabres a one-goal lead. And again, the Sabres gave it up when Alexander Semin scored with four minutes left in the period. “We were a little rusty ... but I think they got a little frustrated when Millsie kept throwing the pucks aside and saving them,” Ennis said. “They got a little loose, and we capitalized. We got better as the game got on but still a little rusty.”
Just in case there was any concern, all is well in the relationship between John Scott and interim head coach Ted Nolan. On Monday, Nolan tossed Scott out of practice. Tuesday morning, Scott was at the morning skate and Tuesday night he was in the lineup, playing defense with Jamie McBain as Henrik Tallinder got a rest from returning from the Olympics.
“I’m surprised that that happened. It was kind of a weird event,” Scott said. “I’ve never seen that happen before in my career. It was definitely something new, but it’s OK. We’re fine now. I know exactly where he’s coming from. He doesn’t want lackadaisical practices, and I was terrible yesterday. I couldn’t make passes or anything.
“It was one of those days where nothing was going right. I understand his decision. I totally get what he’s doing and I would have done the same thing probably.”
And any issues were taken care of immediately on Monday.
“It was ironed out as soon as he came off the ice,” Scott said. “I went and talked to him and apologized. We had a talk. Everything’s fine. We’re moving on, playing a game tonight.”
“I was perfect with John Scott yesterday,” Nolan said. “In this sport sometimes you have those moments, but it’s forgotten right afterwards.”
Ryan Miller became the first NHL goaltender to record two assists in a game since Cory Schneider did it on Dec. 11, 2010. He is the first Sabres goaltender to pick up two assists since Darren Puppa who had a pair on Jan. 14, 1991 against Toronto. ... The assists were the eight and ninth of Miller’s career and his first since March 20, 2011 against Nashville. ... With two assists Drew Stafford now has 11 points (six goals, five assists) in his last eight games. ... Ennis also extended his point streak to three games. He has seven points (two goals, five assists) in his last seven games.
The Bruins are coming to town tonight to open their post-Olympic schedule and they will do it without their starting goaltender.
Tuukka Rask will not make the trip, staying in Boston after returning from Russia. Rask led Finland in their bronze-medal win over the United States.
Chad Johnson will get the start for the Bruins with Niklas Svedberg serving as the backup.
Also returning from Russia are Loui Eriksson (Sweden) and Patrice Bergeron (Canada). They did not practice with the Bruins on Tuesday but are expected to play in Buffalo tonight.