BUFFALO – Jhonas Enroth stopped all 26 shots he faced as the Buffalo Sabres defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-0 in an exhibition game at First Niagara Center on Wednesday.
Ville Leino’s goal 4:58 into the second period on a delayed penalty stood up as the game winner. Mikhail Grigorenko recorded a goal and an assist and Mike Weber added three assists. Zemgus Girgensons added an empty netter with 46.2 seconds left to seal the deal.
“Jhonas, I thought was real strong in there,” Sabres coach Ron Rolston said. “He saw the puck the whole night, even through traffic and I thought he made some real nice saves for us.”
Buffalo killed off seven Columbus power plays in the game, including a 31-second 5-on-3 late in the second period. After the first penalty expired they still had to play shorthanded for the remainder of a four-minute high-sticking penalty Girgensons committed.
Enroth stopped 13 shots in the game while shorthanded, but didn’t mind getting that work in, especially with it being in an exhibition.
“It’s good to get a couple 5-on-3’s in the preseason too. I felt good in that sequence of the game and I think we played very well on the 5-on-3 there,” he said.
The Sabres are 15-for-16 (.937) on the penalty kill at home this preseason and 25-for-27 overall (.926).
The team has put up those numbers despite the fact that, according Rolston, they’ve only really been doing video work so far when it comes to special teams.
“Moving into tomorrow and into this week, we’ll work a lot more on the special teams, but I think there’s a lot of sacrifice out there,” Rolston said. “We had a lot of good blocks, I thought, from the guys you expect it from.”
The Sabres dressed a more veteran lineup than in previous preseason games that may be pretty close to what takes the ice for the season opener on Oct. 2 in Detroit.
Factoring into that lineup were four established NHL defensemen in Christian Ehrhoff, Henrik Tallinder, Tyler Myers and Mike Weber. Mark Pysyk, who played in 19 games last season, and 18-year-old rookie Rasmus Ristolainen rounded out the defense. To Enroth, though, even the younger defensemen played like veterans.
“Everybody except [Ristolainen was experienced out there], but [he] plays like a 10-year veteran pretty much. It was a very experienced D tonight, so it looked good,” he said.
The Sabres scored their first goal on a delayed penalty early in the second period. They were able to move the puck around and possessed the puck in the Blue Jackets’ zone, passing until they found the looks they wanted. Eventually, Weber gave the puck to Cody Hodgson in the left faceoff circle. Hodgson put the puck on net and Leino knocked in the rebound before being checked to the ice.
“We had obviously some puck possession players out there too. They knew what they were doing and we were able to establish the top and the bottom, really,” Rolston said. “We had a lot of support. We rolled our forwards up high and, again, it’s something we haven’t practiced yet, but I just thought they did a good job because of the close support.
“When they did have opportunities, we were able to retrieve and I think it was a big goal for us. To be able to get that, especially it being the first goal and kind of get you started in the game.”
Grigorenko scored 9:10 into the third period on a shot from the left faceoff circle. He put the puck on net and it squeaked by Columbus goaltender Jeremy Smith. It was Grigorenko’s second goal of the preseason.
“I had time to shoot it and I was a little lucky there. Zemgus started celebrating the goal and I realized that I scored,” he said.
Joel Armia left the game with 5:08 remaining in the second period with a hand injury. Rolston did not know after the game how much time Armia might miss.
Ehrhoff served as captain for the game, the second time he’s worn the “C” this preseason. Ott and Thomas Vanek served as the alternates. Rolston said he plans on rotating the captaincy throughout the preseason before naming a full-time captain before the start of the regular season.