For once, the Buffalo Sabres got off to a flying start. It didn’t last Tuesday night as the St. Louis Blues gave them quite a lesson.
Using a physical group of forwards and taking advantage of numerous Buffalo coverage mistakes, the Blues struck most of the right notes in cruising to a 4-1 win before 17,710 in First Niagara Center.
Tyler Ennis scored after 10 seconds on a Ville Leino feed but the Sabres didn’t score again. St. Louis veteran Brenden Morrow notched the first of his two goals 59 seconds later to knot the score and quickly swing the momentum back to St. Louis.
“It’s another learning curve,” Ennis said. “Learn to start hard. We did, we scored and we didn’t sustain it. It’s another thing we need to kind of learn.”
St. Louis improved to 14-3-3 while the Sabres fell to 1-2 under interim coach Ted Nolan and 5-17-1 on the season.
“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,” Nolan said. “We have to keep pushing forward here. We knew it would be tough. We have a lot of work to do and we have to be patient. We just have to keep teaching.”
The Ennis goal marked just the third time in 23 games this year that Buffalo has scored first. But the Sabres couldn’t stand their newfound prosperity.
Morrow burst down the middle and drove home a nifty back pass from Chris Stewart for his first goal and the Blues went ahead for keeps, 2-1, on Vladimir Tarasenko’s tap-in from the left of Ryan Miller with 35.9 seconds left in the period.
“On our backcheck, there’s no swivel, no look around to see what’s coming,” Nolan said. “There’s not enough stops and starts in the defensive zone. There’s not enough will to go get the puck. We got a good lesson tonight.”
Morrow scored in the second to make it 3-1 after a turnover behind the Buffalo net by Cody McCormick, and Magnus Paajarvi got the final goal at 6:10 of the third on a sizzling slap shot that cleanly beat Ryan Miller.
The Ennis goal, which came after a Jay Bouwmeester giveaway, was the fastest to start a game by a Sabre since Drew Stafford scored after 10 seconds on Jan. 27, 2009 at Edmonton. The club record is five seconds, set by Alexander Mogilny in Toronto on Dec, 21, 1991.
Former Sabres center Derek Roy played his first game against his former team since being traded in July, 2012 – but Buffalo is now three teams ago for him.
Roy was dealt to Dallas for Steve Ott, sent by the Stars to Vancouver at the trade deadline in April and then signed a one-year, $4 million free agent contract with St. Louis over the summer.
Roy said he told former Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier he didn’t want to get traded after the 2011-12 season ended but the Sabres made the move while shaking up their team after missing the playoffs that spring.
“I had some unfinished business here, winning a Stanley Cup or at least making a good playoff run,” Roy said. “I thought we had a great team but then a couple weeks later I got traded. It was tough. I wanted to stay here. I had a lot of good friends on the team and around the city. It was a great place to play and a great place to live.
“It was tough early on, with being here for so long, knowing all the players and knowing all the city. It was different going to a city where I don’t know anybody or don’t know the city or where I’m going to live. It was a tough change right away.”
Roy struggled with groin injuries in Dallas and was still bouncing back from major shoulder surgery he had after the trade (he didn’t miss any games due to the lockout). He had four goals and 18 assists in 30 games in Dallas and three goals, three assists in 12 games for Vancouver before posting just one assist in the playoffs.
With the Blues, Roy has five goals and seven assists in 20 games, assisting on Morrow’s second goal Tuesday. He’s moved through the lineup, including a demotion to left wing on the fourth line, but was back centering the third line Tuesday.
“I’ve been bouncing around but I’ve found a home in St. Louis,” Roy said. “I wanted to go to a team where I had the best chance to win the Stanley Cup.”
The Sabres return to practice today and then travel to Philadelphia, where they meet the Flyers Thursday night in the Wells Fargo Center. The next home game is Sunday at 5 against Detroit. The Flyers beat Ottawa, 5-2, on Tuesday and are 5-1-2 in their last eight games.
The Philly trip opens a string of nine straight games against Eastern Conference foes. The next game against a Western club is Dec. 14 when Calgary comes to town.
The Blues had a 31-24 advantage in shots on goal. Alexander Steen led the way with six but not adding to his NHL-leading goal total of 17. … It was a tough night for Buffalo defensemen Christian Ehrhoff and Mark Pysyk (both minus-3) and the fourth line of McCormick, John Scott and Corey Tropp (all minus-2). … The Blues are 13-2-0 against the Sabres since 1999, including 8-1 on the road.