PITTSBURGH – The Buffalo Sabres received another quality effort from their starting goaltender, but yet again could not produce enough offense to earn him a victory. Saturday night, it was Jhonas Enroth between the pipes.
Enroth made 31 saves in the Sabres’ 4-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center.
Marc-Andre Fleury made 20 saves for the Penguins (2-0-0). Sidney Crosby and Chuck Kobasew scored first-period goals and Chris Kunitz tallied on a penalty shot midway through the third period. Craig Adams added an empty netter with 1:35 to play in the game.
Thomas Vanek scored in the third period for his first goal of the season.
The Sabres (0-3-0) have scored only twice in three games this season and are searching for ways to generate more offense.
“We had chances, but at the end of the day, we didn’t score again when we needed to,” Sabres center Cody Hodgson said. “Limiting that team to as many chances as we did, I thought Jhonas played great, but overall, it’s the same story. We need to generate offense. One goal isn’t enough.”
It’s been the goaltending that has kept Buffalo in the games early this season. Ryan Miller started the first two games and stopped 77 of 80 shots he faced, including 45 on Friday against Ottawa. Enroth had to make a few highlight-reel quality saves throughout the game, including a sprawling left pad save to deny Tanner Glass late in the second period and a kick save on Evgeni Malkin early in the third.
“Our goalies have stood on their head all three games,” Sabres defenseman Mike Weber said. “And it’s unfortunate that we can’t be better in front of them to limit some of their shots and some of their chances. It all comes down to us finding a way to get some offense going, generate some offense and bear down and score goals.”
The Sabres penalty kill has been strong. They haven’t allowed a goal in eight shorthanded situations this season. However, the power play continues to struggle. Buffalo went 0-for-2 against the Penguins and have yet to score on any of their 13 power play opportunities.
“We just have to be a lot simpler than we are right now,” Sabres coach Ron Rolston said. “We pass up opportunities when we do get them and I thought [Pittsburgh] played really well.”
The Penguins got off to an early start with Crosby scoring 3:39 into the contest. He picked up his own rebound in front of the net to put Pittsburgh up 1-0.
Crosby has recorded points in 15 consecutive games against the Sabres dating back to Dec. 29, 2007. In those 15 games, he has nine goals and 15 assists.
Then, Kobasew cleanly deflected in a point shot from Brandon Sutter with 6:17 to play in the first to make it a 2-0 game.
Kunitz earned his penalty shot with 9:51 remaining in regulation. Weber, skating back, tried to get his stick in front of him, but wrapped him up enough to the point where the referee called a penalty shot. Kunitz faked a shot and then went backhand on the attempt, beating Enroth between his glove and body.
“I think I would’ve had it if he got a clean shot off but he kind of fanned on it,” Enroth said. “…It was a bit of luck from him, but it was a pretty good shootout [goal].”
Vanek finally put Buffalo on the board with 4:54 to play. Vanek stood in front of the net with Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik to the right of Fleury. Hodgson threw a puck to the net from the right wing and Vanek got his stick around Orpik to redirect the puck into the net.
“[Vanek] made one of the best plays I’ve ever seen someone do,” Hodgson said. “It’s pretty unbelievable to go pick that out of the air and put it in top corner. I was just trying to get it on net. He really did everything.”
Many of the players in the locker room expressed frustration with their offensive production. After playing three games in four nights to start the season, they’ll have Sunday to recuperate.
“We lost three straight games. Obviously we’re frustrated but we’ll take day off tomorrow and get back to work on Monday and try to figure this out,” Enroth said.
The Sabres don’t play again until Tuesday when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning at 7:30 p.m.