Niagara Gazette — Despite a number of teams above them in the Eastern Conference standings, the Buffalo Sabres have very little quit in them.
Following a 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning Sunday evening, the Sabres find themselves in 10th place, but only four points behind eighth-place New York Rangers.
Even a few nights ago, after falling short against the Montreal Canadiens Thursday, the team didn't look like an interested team, one willing to fight and claw to make the postseason.
"I think the guys in the room believe that, that they're a playoff team," Interim Head Coach Ron Rolston said after defeating Tampa Bay. "We've had some setbacks in the last week, especially the Montreal game. But there's a lot of pride in that room and guys were able to bounce back on the weekend and put some efforts back to back."
Much of the team's turnaround this weekend can be attributed to the strong play of its backup goaltender. Jhonas Enroth made 32 saves in his second start of the weekend Sunday, supplanting Ryan Miller temporarily as the team's go-to netminder. He recorded more than 96 minutes of shutout hockey before he was beaten by a Benoit Pouliot deflection 13:30 into the second period.
The Sabres had already opened up a 3-0 lead at that point, though.
Rolston said Enroth's strong play Saturday was the primary reason he got the call Sunday and the gamble turned out in the team's favor.
"He's been playing so well and the shutout (Saturday) night," he said. "We wanted to get him back in there."
Tyler Ennis opened the scoring with a powerplay goal 4:09 into the first period. The goal developed along the penalty box boards when defenseman Christian Ehrhoff made a between the legs pass to the side of the net, where Thomas Vanek was waiting. Vanek slid a pass to Ennis who made no mistake slamming the puck into a gaping net after Tampa goaltender Mathieu Garon committed to Vanek on the play.
The goal was Ennis's 10th of the season and his first in 11 games.
Jochen Hecht doubled the Sabres lead eight minutes into the second period when he picked up the puck at center ice and skated into the Tampa zone unchallenged. He fired a wrist shot at Garon, which the goaltender wasn't able to handle.
Four-and-a-half minutes later, Kevin Porter scored a tip-in to put the Sabres up comfortably. He entered the Lightning zone on a two-on-one break with Brian Flynn. He passed to Flynn, which the rookie didn't completely handle. But Flynn recovered to send a perfect pass back to Porter, who was cruising in front of Garon.
"It was kind of a bad pass, but (Flynn) recovered and made a nice pass to the slot," Porter said of the play.
Porter's goal gives him points in four consecutive games, a career best, and seven points in his last seven games. All of Porter's goals with the Sabres have come with in the month of April, despite being with the team since February.
But all of the team's collective struggles won't matter if the team continues to push forward toward the playoffs. Porter said the team plans on making the last five games of the season as interesting as possible to try to leap past the teams ahead of them.
"Points are huge," Porter said. "These are two teams below us in the standings. We have five games left, so we're going to make this interesting. We're just taking this one game at a time."