It’s one thing to not get a break late in the game, but when a quirky NHL rule comes into play then you know things are getting tough for the Buffalo Sabres.
Johnny Oduya scored the game winner 57 seconds into overtime as the Winnipeg Jets came back to defeat the Sabres 2-1 at First Niagara Center on Saturday. The loss dropped the Sabres to 18-18-5 on the season.
With the Sabres holding a 1-0 lead in the last minute of the second period, Buffalo was put two men down thanks to a rarely-called penalty that was handed down to Jordan Leopold.
Buffalo netminder Jhonas Enroth lost his stick and it ended up sliding out to the right faceoff dot. Leopold corralled the stick and passed it back to Enroth in the crease. However NHL rules (Section 3, Rule 10.4) state that a goaltender’s stick must be handed to him, not passed or slid, so Leopold was assessed a minor penalty for throwing the stick. On the ensuing five-on-three advantage, Tobias Enstrom found Blake Wheeler wide open in the slot, and he fired it into the wide open net with just 4.2 seconds left on the clock.
“I think the ref made it pretty clear that if the stick's right by the goalie, you can push it over to him,” said captain Jason Pominville. “If it's as far as it was on the play, you can't push it over. You've gotta grab it and go give it to your goalie. It's one of those we probably weren't too sure about the rule, thinking you're making a good play and it ends up giving them a two-man advantage and they capitalize on it.”
Enroth, who made 39 saves in the game, accepted the referee’s decision on the play.
“I didn't know about that rule, but obviously the refs are professionals, so they probably made the right call there.”
The score was tied 1-1 with 1:45 left in the third when Buffalo appeared to take the lead. Ville Leino jumped in to scoop home the loose puck after Ondrej Pavelec stopped Robyn Regehr’s shot. But the play was whistled dead by the referee who lost sight of the puck that was sitting on the back of Pavelec’s pad.
Returning to the lineup after missing 10 games with a foot injury, Leino knows how much that goal would’ve meant to both himself and the team.
“We definitely need one of those and it would be nice to have one, but I guess if we keep working like that, we'll get the bounces. We had a lot of chances that were close.”
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It took until the second period for either team to get on the board, with Buffalo firing the opening salvo on the power play courtesy of Tyler Myers.
In his second game back after missing 19 with a broken wrist, Myers electrified the sold out crowd when snuck down low and redirected Pominville’s laser pass from the corner past Pavelec. It was the third goal of the season for Myers, and first since a two-goal performance against New Jersey on November 16.
“The guys on our unit are reading really well when we need to fill each other's positions,” said Myers. “We're getting some really good puck movement and it just happened that I was the guy in front and Poms made an unbelievable pass across.”
Buffalo appeared to have the puck cleared on Oduya’s overtime goal. But Evander Kane grabbed the loose puck at the blueline and found Oduya wide open in the slot and he wired a one-timer over Enroth’s glove.
“We had a couple chances to get it out before that, before the last play,” said Myers. “I was just trying to get it out of harm's way and when they picked it off in the neutral zone, we lost coverage as a unit and started running around and they capitalized.
The Sabres got a scare in the first when Thomas Vanek took a Myers slapshot to his midsection while parked in front of the net. Vanek struggled back to the bench where he received several minutes of treatment from athletic trainer Tim Macre. After playing his next shift, Vanek then retreated to the locker room for a brief time before returning for the remainder of the game. He finished with 13:31 of ice time and three shots on goal.
NOTES: Despite the overtime loss, the Sabres have picked up at least one point in each of their past six home games … Derek Roy (upper body) and Christian Ehrhoff (upper body) were Buffalo’s scratches … Roy was injured last night in Carolina, and becomes the 19th player to miss time with an injury this season … Zack Kassian and TJ Brennan were returned to Rochester this morning … Pominville played in his 500th career game tonight, and it was career game number 300 for Cody McCormick … Former Sabres captain Stu Barnes was tonight’s special guest at the pre-game Tailgate Tent Party.