The St. Louis Blues scored four answered goals Tuesday night to leave First Niagara Center with a 4-1 victory. With their win over the Buffalo Sabres, the Blues hit 31 points on the season, one point out of first place in the NHL.
The Sabres are a young team that is trying to forge a new identity with new direction from the front office led by President of Hockey Operations Pat LaFontaine.
Sabres forward Tyler Ennis, who scored Buffalo’s lone goal Ennis noted that there are lessons to be learned from how St. Louis plays. He also said that while his club has a lot of work to do, he’s noticed signs of progress in the three games since interim coach Ted Nolan took over behind the bench.
“It’s a good model of a team. They play hard. They’ve been together for a little while, kind of the same core and play a hard game, strong game with some skill,” Ennis said. “They’re a good team to base off of and I think our compete level’s been a lot better the last three games.”
Ryan Miller made 27 saves for Buffalo.
Brendan Morrow scored twice and Vladimir Tarasenko and Magnus Paajarvi also tallied for the Blues. Jaroslav Halak stopped 23 shots in net.
Nolan thought that against a veteran hockey club like the Blues, some of Buffalo’s inexperience was exposed.
“I think our youth really showed tonight. This is one of the better teams in the National Hockey League and it really showed your flaws. We just gotta keep pushing forward here. We knew it was going to be tough,” Nolan said.
Buffalo got the start the wanted as Ennis scored 10 seconds into the game. However, the Blues roared back 59 seconds later to tie the game on a goal by Morrow. Scoring the first goal was a welcome change for the Sabres, especially early in the contest. They have only four first-period goals so far this season.
“Sometimes we’ve been starting slow. This time we started fast and scored and then we kind of let off the gas,” Ennis said. “Those are the things we need to fix. They’re a good team and you can’t let off the gas.”
However, giving the goal right back and not scoring thereafter was obviously not a part of the plan.
“It’s nice to score five, 10 seconds into the game, but we didn’t score since then. That’s obviously a problem in itself,” Sabres captain Steve Ott said. “We had some chances throughout the game. I thought overall, that was probably our weakest game in the last few and meanwhile, a lot of it was our own fault and those are things we have to correct.”
The Sabres committed three penalties in the first period, two by Ennis and other by Ott. It wasn’t until the third opportunity that St. Louis capitalized. St. Louis took the lead with 35.9 seconds remaining the first period on Vladimir Tarasenko’s power-play goal.
“I thought a lot of the game we shot ourselves in the foot,” Ott said. “A lot of turnovers. We had some passengers tonight and we all need to be accountable for that.”
Morrow scored again with 5:51 remaining in the second on a one-timer from out in front to make it a two-goal game. Chris Stewart assisted on the play for his second goal of the evening.
The Blues took a 4-1 lead 6:10 into the third period on a slap shot from the top of the face off circle by Paajarvi.
As to how to fix some of those problems plaguing the Sabres, Nolan said it starts in practice and comes down to the team working hard every day.
“We have a lot of work to do and we just have to be patient. We just have to keep teaching and keep learning,” he said. “You could tell the difference between some of the younger players we have and some of the more mature players they have. It’s just a part of maturity.”
It’s also a game the team can learn from, according to Nolan.
“Sometimes when you play a team like this and understanding what it takes to win,” Nolan said. “We got a good lesson tonight.”
The Sabres next travel to Philadelphia for a 7 p.m. match against the Flyers on Thursday.
Prior to the start of the game, the Sabres made several transactions involving four of the seven rookies on the roster. Defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen and center Johan Larsson were assigned to the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League. Center Mikhail Grigorenko was sent down to the Amerks as well on a conditioning assignment. Defenseman Nikita Zadorov was returned to the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League as well.