Sabres overcome emotions, Sharks after big trade
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- After saying goodbye to their franchise goaltender and their captain, the Buffalo Sabres rallied for an emotional 4-2 win over the San Jose Sharks on Friday night.
The win capped a franchise-changing evening for the Sabres. At 7 p.m., Buffalo traded goaltender Ryan Miller and captain Steve Ott to the St. Louis Blues for goaltender Jaroslav Halak, forwards Chris Stewart and William Carrier, a 2015 first-round pick and a conditional draft pick.
“It’s going to be a different feeling without those two guys,” Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers said. “It’s just a matter of embracing the moment and coming together as a group to try and keep pushing forward. (This win) feels really, really good.”
Myers, left winger Matt Moulson, center Brian Flynn and center Cody Hodgson scored for the Sabres (18-34-8), who have won three consecutive games since the Olympic break. Goaltender Jhonas Enroth was superb between the pipes for Buffalo, making 36 saves.
“When a guy like Ryan Miller gets traded, that’s not a normal player getting traded,” Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said. “This guy has been here for a long time, he’s won a lot of games. He was the face of the organization for a long, long time. To lose a player like him, it’s tough.”
Left winger Patrick Marleau and center James Sheppard scored for the Sharks (38-17-6), who dominated large stretches of the first two periods but struggled to find the back of the net. San Jose goalie Antti Niemi made 16 saves.
“It’s a game, they’re going to come out and play,” Sharks center Joe Pavelski said. “They get a little shake-up, get punched a little bit, they lose a couple of really good players, they’re going to come out and play hard. That’s what they did. We knew they’d be ready. ... We had our chances to score early and we didn‘t, fell behind, climbed back and just didn’t turn the corner like we needed to.”
The biggest reason for the Sharks’ struggles on offense was Miller’s replacement, Enroth, who won back-to-back games for the first time this year. The Sharks outshot Buffalo 31-13 through 40 minutes and 38-20 overall but got their only goal off a fortuitous bounce in the Buffalo end.
Enroth did not know until shortly before game time that he would start because of the trade. Miller was originally scheduled to start for Buffalo.
“I was sitting in the back, joking around with the trainers about all these trade rumors and I told them hopefully it doesn’t happen on game day, especially against the Sharks,” Enroth said. “Three minutes after, Coach Nolan came up to me and told me I was starting, so I kinda jinxed myself there. After that, I was a bit more nervous than usual, but I told myself I had nothing to lose.”
Sharks captain Joe Thornton said, “Enroth played well. He’s quick. He really didn’t give us too many second opportunities. He stopped every shot it seemed.”
Hodgson opened the scoring 11 minutes into the first period with a high wrist shot from the left circle. It was Hodgson’s 15th goal of the season.
San Jose got on the board before the halfway point of the second period after a fortunate bounce behind the Sabres net. Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s long shot from the point caromed off the end boards and went between Enroth’s legs in the crease before Sheppard tapped the puck home at 9:38.
Flynn gave Buffalo a 2-1 lead on a quick wrist shot 4:33 into the third period after a faceoff win in the San Jose end. With a goal and an assist in Wednesday’s victory over the Boston Bruins, Flynn has three points in his last two games.
Moulson made it 3-1 three minutes later after a pretty feed from Myers. Myers skated past Sharks right winger Adam Burish before threading the needle to Moulson in the slot. The forward buried a wrist shot past Niemi to the blocker side.
Marleau cut San Jose’s deficit to one with 1:15 remaining on his 24th goal of the season before Myers added an empty-net goal with 20.7 seconds left.
NOTES: C Tyler Ennis was scratched for Buffalo along with G Ryan Miller and captain Steve Ott, who were traded to the St. Louis Blues. ... LW Raffi Torres, D Matt Tennyson and LW Matt Nieto were scratched for the Sharks. ... This was the second of two meetings between the teams this season. Buffalo won 5-4 at San Jose in a shootout Nov. 5. ... This was the 31st game all time between Buffalo and San Jose. ... San Jose C Joe Thornton made his Sharks debut Dec. 2, 2005, at Buffalo. He also played in his 700th career game against the Sabres on Dec. 8, 2007.