BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Thanks to Jhonas Enroth, the Buffalo Sabres are not out of the playoff hunt just yet.
The backup netminder was terrific between the pipes for the second day in a row and led his team to a 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday.
After picking up his third career shutout against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday in a 1-0 victory, Enroth earned another chance in the crease for the Sabres. It was the first time since December 2011 that Enroth started in consecutive games for Buffalo and he made it count by making 32 saves.
"Jhonas played amazing," Sabres forward Tyler Ennis said. "He's a big reason we won two games this weekend."
Ennis, Jochen Hecht and Kevin Porter scored for the Sabres, who improved to 18-19-6. But it was Enroth who once again grabbed the spotlight with a commanding performance in net. The backup is now 4-0-1 in his last seven games (including one fill-in performance) with a save percentage of .951 and a 1.55 goals against average over that period of time.
"It feels good to get a couple of more games and be a bigger part of the team," Enroth said. "It was actually pretty similar games, I think. The first period was pretty easy. Second period was a little busy, and third was pretty much smooth sailing."
Buffalo's 42 points put the Sabres four points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, currently held by the New York Rangers -- though the Rangers have two games in hand on Buffalo.
"On the outside looking in," Ennis said. "Right now we have nothing to lose. We've got to give it everything we have and make a push and we're playing well and we've got some tough games coming up but we're going to have to continue to get better."
The Lightning struggled to find their footing after mounting a late comeback on Saturday against the Washington Capitals. Tampa Bay came back from a 5-1 deficit one day earlier to force overtime against Washington before falling in the extra session, which left the Lightning with tired legs against the Sabres.
"I think we've played two three-in-fours in the last eight days," Tampa coach Jon Cooper said. "This is the lockout. When you look at the reality of the situation, it's tough on the guys. They're human, but we've got more in the tank and I know we laid a lot on the line last night in that comeback. But it looked like whoever was going to score first was probably going to win the game and that's what happened."
Benoit Pouliot scored for the Lightning, who fell to 17-22-3 and are all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. The Lightning are nine points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the East with six games to play. Mathieu Garon had 19 saves.
"We've hit that point where we're out of the playoff chase so I think reality at some point sinks in," Cooper said. "They're only human. They know that we have a few games left and we have no chance for the playoffs, so I think mentally they're human in there. They know what's going on. But in saying that, it was a tough stretch for the guys."
The Sabres struck first on the power play at 4:09 of the first after some pretty passing in the Tampa end. Defenseman Christian Ehrhoff found Thomas Vanek to the left of the crease with a between-the-legs pass, and Vanek found a wide-open Ennis on the other side of the net with a no-look, backhand pass. Ennis converted for his 10th goal of the season and his first goal in 12 games.
Hecht made it 2-0 eight minutes into the second period with his fourth goal of the season. Hecht's wrist shot from the right circle hit Garon under the goalie's left arm and went into the net.
Buffalo increased its lead to 3-0 at 12:37 of the second on Porter's fourth goal of the year. After Porter missed teammate Brian Flynn on a 2-on-1 chance, Flynn came right back and fed Porter for a tap-in.
Tampa Bay got their only goal of the game under one minute later on Pouliot's redirection in front of the Buffalo net. Pouliot deflected Eric Brewer's shot from the left point.
NOTES: The Sabres made no changes to their lineup after a 1-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday. Ville Leino (upper body), Tyler Myers (broken bone in leg) and Luke Adam (healthy) were Buffalo's scratches. ... Nate Thompson and Pierre-Cedric Labrie were scratched for the Lightning. Tampa Bay goaltender Anders Lindback remains out with an ankle injury. ... This was the third and final meeting between the two teams this season. ... This was the 77th game in history between Buffalo and Tampa Bay. Heading into Sunday's game, the Sabres led the series with a 48-23-5 record
By Mark Ludwiczak, The Sports Xchange
Publish Date: April 14, 2013 09:06:29 PM
Sabres ride Enroth to 3-1 win over Lightning
|All Times Eastern|