WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Ryan Miller is a no-brainer to be named to Team USA’s entry for the Sochi Olympics today in the wake of his outstanding season. Meanwhile, there’s no telling how long he’ll actually stay with the Buffalo Sabres.
Jhonas Enroth said last year he was ready to graduate from being Miller’s backup to No. 1 goalie. He’s said it again this year. But he has one win the entire season and, despite some good moments, has yet to really show he could be the guy here if and when Miller departs.
Enroth gave up a terrible first goal Tuesday night on a long shot by Keaton Ellerby and the Sabres never recovered in a 3-0 loss to the Winnipeg Jets at raucous MTS Centre.
Ellerby notched his second goal of the season and fellow Winnipeg blue-liner Jacob Trouba added his third in the second period as the Jets extended Buffalo’s troubles on the road. The Sabres are 0-8-2 in their last 10 away from First Niagara Center.
Red-hot Winnipeg goalie Al Montoya made 27 saves for the shutout and tough guy Anthony Peluso’s empty-net goal spread more Auld Lang Syne cheer through the packed house of 15,004.
The Sabres played without defenseman Henrik Tallinder, who will miss 1-2 weeks with an “upper-middle” body injury suffered Sunday against Washington. And they lost Ville Leino with a lower body injury after just three shifts. Interim coach Ted Nolan said two Rochester Americans will be joining the team today.
The Jets got the only goal they would need at 10:42 of the first as Ellerby one-timed a shot off the boards near the left point following a cross-ice pass from Winnipeg captain Andrew Ladd.
Enroth didn’t take a great angle on the play and the puck hit him on the inside of the arm. That changed its course and sent it skittering into the net.
“I saw it all the way. He literally threw a curveball at me,” Enroth said. “That’s pretty tough. It was a knucklepuck tipped right in front of me and I just got a piece of it. To me it’s just bad luck, a bad bounce. Just a half-inch closer to me and it’s a save and we don’t talk about that. Still, that’s a puck I should save.”
Enroth acknowledged the shot might have even gone wide.
“I think I reached a little bit on that one,” he said. “Sometimes you do that early in the game. You just want to start feeling the puck but it’s a mistake I made.”
Rookie Zemgus Girgensons blamed himself for the goal. It was his turnover a few seconds earlier at the blue line that set up the Winnipeg possession. Girgensons went for a hit in the Winnipeg zone on Trouba’s goal and the Jets blue-liner got away, bursting through the slot for a sizzler off a Chris Thorburn drop pass to make it 2-0.
“I feel like I can take the blame for the whole game,” Girgensons said. “The first two goals are on me. Seems like the worst game I’ve played. You can’t blame the goalies. Both of them have been doing their best. It’s about us stepping up making their lives easier.
“We can’t have any kind of turnovers or mistakes and get caught trying to fight back,” Nolan said. “Because our offense is” having a tough time scoring.
Enroth fell to 1-8-3 on the season although his save percentage (.910) and goals-against average (2.60) are decent. What isn’t in his favor is the Sabres’ lack of offense. They have 16 goals in his 12 starts and there’s thus no room for error.
“It’s a team sport. I think I’ve been playing good, not great,” Enroth said. “It obviously looks a little bit worse when I’m playing with Ryan. He’s one of the best in the league and stands on his head every game. It’s a team sport and I’ll just keep plugging away.”
The Sabres looked like they had tied the game with 5:21 left in the first period as Marcus Foligno banged home a loose puck in the goalmouth. But Drew Stafford was pushed into the goalpost by defenseman Mark Stuart and the goal was wiped off because the net was lifted off the moorings.
That was the call on the ice and replays were inconclusive, so the call stood.
“It was a quick assumption by the ref,” Foligno said. “I thought the net was fine.”
The Sabres are 3-13-2 on the road this year, including 0-6-2 since Nolan took over. They are 7-10-3 in 20 games overall under Nolan after going 4-15-1 under Ron Rolston.
Buffalo plays game 41 – the halfway mark of the schedule – Thursday night at Minnesota and will practice in the home of the Wild today in St. Paul. The Olympic announcement comes after the Winter Classic between Detroit and Toronto in Ann Arbor, Mich.