The Buffalo Sabres have now won two straight games at the most critical point of the season after beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-1 Sunday. Jhonas Enroth was stellar between the pipes for the Sabres who are now just four points behind the New York Rangers for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Enroth made 32 saves on 33 shots against the Lightning for his fourth win of the season. The Lightning’s lone goal came late in the second period as Benoit Pouliot beat Enroth with a deflection for his eighth goal of the season.
Buffalo has gone with Enroth in each of the last two starts and the Swedish netminder has been impressive. The 24-year-old shutout the Flyers Saturday night before beating the Lightning a day later. Enroth stopped 16 shots before Pouliot’s deflection found the back of the net.
The Sabres jumped out to an early lead Sunday on a spectacular passing display four minutes into the first period. Christian Ehrhoff threw the puck between his legs towards the front of the net that ended up on Thomas Vanek’s stick.
Vanek then made a no-look pass across the crease that met Tyler Ennis for a one-timer and a 1-0 Sabres lead. The slick goal was Ennis’ 10th of the season and came on a Sabres powerplay after the Lightning’s Steven Stamkos was sent to the box for slashing.
Here’s video of the amazing passing display along with highlights from the rest of the game courtesy of NHL.com:
The Sabres took their one-goal lead into the second period before Jochen Hecht and Kevin Porter gave Buffalo more breathing room. Hecht beat Lightning goaltender Mathieu Garon to the blocker-side before Porter scored on a two-on-one break just over four minutes later.
Pouliot’s goal came less than a minute after Porter’s to cut the Sabres lead to 3-1. Enroth took control from there and held off the struggling Lightning. Tampa Bay took 16 shots after Pouliot’s goal midway through the second and Enroth stopped every one of them.
The Lightning have now lost three straight games and four straight on the road. Tampa Bay is on the road again Tuesday as they take on the Winnipeg Jets.
The Sabres have five games left to pick up four points on the Rangers if they hope to make a run at the Stanley Cup this season. The two teams face off this coming Friday in a crucial match-up that could determine the final playoff spot.
Buffalo will be at home against the Rangers on Friday, but have two road games against the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins this week that are must win games. The Penguins have already clinched a playoff spot as the best team in the Eastern Conference while the Bruins have lost two straight but are just one win away from clinching their spot.
Will the Buffalo Sabres shock the NHL by recovering from a terrible start to the season and sneak into the playoffs?
[Image via Michael Miller]