After getting a bird’s-eye view of the tying goal with 3.5 seconds left on the clock, Ryan Miller’s message to his teammates was simple: win the game.
Tyler Myers answered Miller’s call with a goal at 2:01 of overtime, leading the Buffalo Sabres to 3-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens at First Niagara Center on Monday. Tyler Ennis scored twice for the Sabres, and Miller turned away 26 saves in the victory.
The thrilling win leaves the Sabres at 7-2-1 through their last 10 games, and they’ll go to bed tonight with sole possession of ninth spot with 74 points (33-29-8) – two points back of the eighth-place Washington Capitals.
Buffalo looked to have a firm grip on this game, but Montreal thought otherwise. With their goalie pulled in the final minute of regulation, the Canadiens buzzed the Buffalo net and forced Miller to make several key saves, including a glove stop on Max Pacioretty with 25 seconds left. It took a late scramble to force the game to overtime, as the puck kicked free to David Desharnais in the slot and he buried it into the empty net as Miller scrambled to recover.
Miller was extremely animated and vocal at the bench following regulation, imploring his teammates to move past the late goal and get the all-important two points.
“I told them ‘don't feel sorry for yourselves, go get the win.’ Just needed to snap everyone out of their shock or surprise or whatever happened at the end there,” he explained. “We protected pretty well for a while there and had a couple bounces. We ended up on the one side of the net on a switch. Roysie got knocked down and our D had to kind of sub in for him in pursuit and we ended up with three guys on a line, not the coverage we want. Three seconds, four seconds or whatever it was, that can stun a team and I wanted to make sure we were ready to go compete and get two points because we need them.”
Derek Roy started the rush on Myers’ overtime winner, stealing the puck from Yannick Weber inside the Sabres blueline and rushing it deep into the Montreal zone. Roy rifled a cross-ice pass to a streaking Myers, and he unloaded a wrist shot to the far corner behind Peter Budaj. It was Myers’ third career overtime goal, passing Alexei Zhitnik and Jason Woolley for most all-time by a Sabres defenseman.
Myers believes that goal reflects the confident nature of this team as they continue their late-season push for a playoff spot.
“Two months ago, I would say it would be very tough with our group [to come back]. But I think we’ve come a very long way mentally as a team. Those don’t feel good and the way we responded was a big sign of life with our group.
“I think it’s all mental. I think you see it with the guys in our group that we’re starting to believe whereas two months ago, we didn’t have that sense of belief in this room. Guys are starting to battle the way we need them to win and it’s coming along. It’s going to be tight. We’re still behind and we need to continue this play [through] these next 12 games.”
Buffalo had the better scoring chances in the first period with 14 shots on Budaj, but Montreal capitalized on one of just six shots to take the early lead. Ville Leino backhanded the puck into the middle of the Sabres zone where it was picked off by Desharnais. He faked a shot from the slot before dropping to Erik Cole, and his slapshot beat Miller at 4:32.
It took an Ennis highlight reel goal for Buffalo to tie the score at 11:08 of the second period. After Drew Stafford had chipped the puck over the Montreal blueline, Ennis stickhandled his way past a helpless Andrei Markov and then continued his mastery with a deke on Budaj that ended with a wrist shot over the fallen netminder.
“I just came over the line with speed. I didn't know who it was,” explained Ennis. “I figured he was a little flat-footed. I was originally just going to shoot, but then I saw he was kind of flat-footed so I thought I'd make a little move.”
But while Ennis’ first goal was a thing of beauty that will be looped on highlight shows for weeks to come, his second of the night was as ugly as they come. Just 110 seconds into the third, Ennis tried to hit Marcus Foligno with a pass through the crease, but it was redirected into the Montreal night by the stick of Habs defenseman Alexei Emelin.
It was Ennis’ third career two-goal game and first in almost a year – with the last coming on March 13, 2011 against Ottawa. Coincidentally, all three have taken place at home.
FIRST PERIOD 1-0 MTL: Cole beats Miller with a slapshot from the high slot after a dropp pass from Desharnais (4:32)… Shots: MTL-14, BUF-6
SECOND PERIOD 1-1: Ennis grabs the puck at the blueline, undresses Markov, then goes backhand-forehand-top shelf on Budaj. (11:08)… Shots: BUF-12, MTL-7
2-1 BUF: Ennis’ attempted pass to Foligno gets redirected in front by Emelin (1:50)… 2-2: Desharnais buries the tying goal into the open net after a scramble in front (19:55)… Shots: BUF-12, MTL-12
3-2 BUF: Myers ends the game with a wrist shot from the right wing (2:01)… Shots: MTL-3, BUF-1