ANAHEIM, Calif. – The Sabres avoided the history books. They couldn’t avoid another loss.
Tyler Ennis’ goal with 5:06 remaining Wednesday night stopped Buffalo from getting blanked for a third straight game. It also served as a wakeup call for the Anaheim Ducks. They found the net twice after Ennis scored to dispatch the visitors, 4-1, in Honda Center.
The red goal light flashed for Buffalo for the first time in exactly 197 minutes. The Sabres had been shut out during their previous losses to Florida and Boston, and they’d never been blanked in three straight games.
That fact remains … for now.
Corey Perry tripled the Sabres’ goal total all by himself. The Buffalo tormenter recorded a hat trick, including two goals in the final 2:43 to get the home crowd of 16,067 chanting his name. Perry has 10 goals in 11 games against the Sabres.
“If you can disable the best guys on the other team, that’s when you have a chance to win,” Sabres center Zemgus Girgensons said. “As you see, we did not do that.”
The Sabres’ lack of execution for nearly 55 minutes overshadowed a decent performance. They were embarrassed by the Ducks during a one-sided 5-1 loss last week, but they played a more even game this time until Perry put them away.
“It’s tough, but there’s positives to take,” Ennis said. “If we play like that this year and we get better at certain things, we’re going to win more games.”
Buffalo fell to 1-6. The Sabres hopped in a bus after the game to take the highways to Los Angeles. They play the Kings tonight in Staples Center feeling a little better about themselves.
“That’s one thing we’ve been looking for since the start is just the effort,” coach Ted Nolan said. “If the effort’s there you’re going to have a chance. With a little luck, it could have been a different result.
“At least it’s a little bit of a moral victory for us.”
Before Ennis, Buffalo’s previous goal came when Marcus Foligno beat Carolina’s Cam Ward 2:54 into the third period of Buffalo’s 4-3 shootout victory Oct. 14. The Sabres still have goals from just four players this season. Girgensons, Ennis and Foligno have two each, while Torrey Mitchell has scored once.
The struggling Sabres also ran into the wrong goaltender Wednesday. Anaheim’s Frederik Andersen was the best player on the ice for most of the game, turning aside 22 shots. A high percentage of those attempts were legitimate scoring chances, but the reigning NHL Second Star of the Week was a wall until Ennis struck.
“You have to give Andersen credit,” Nolan said. “We had our chances, and we just didn’t bury them. Their goaltender made some good saves.”
The Sabres stormed out of the dressing room determined to show the Ducks they can compete against the NHL’s elite. Buffalo took the opening three shots, quite a change after getting outshot, 17-3, during the first period against Anaheim last week.
The early work didn’t produce anything. Anaheim’s first attempt did.
The quick-passing Ducks moved the puck from behind their net into Buffalo’s net in only six seconds. They used four passes, including a fantastic touch pass from Ryan Getzlaf, to set up Perry alone in the Buffalo zone. The former MVP sent a laser past goalie Michal Neuvirth into the top corner with 8:50 gone.
The Sabres have given up the opening goal in six of their seven games.
Buffalo had a decent second period, but once again they had nothing to show for it. Andersen turned aside all seven shots, including a pad save on crease-front Girgensons just 25 seconds into the period.
The Ducks, meanwhile, doubled their lead with another rush goal. Ryan Kesler, acquired from Vancouver, finished a three-on-two by beating Neuvirth from the slot with 9:20 gone. Perry beat Neuvirth again with 2:43 left, and the sniper found an empty net with 1:25 remaining.
“You’ve got to stay positive here,” Sabres captain Brian Gionta said. “I thought tonight was a much better game, the way we need to play. It’s a start in the right direction. If we continue to play like that, we’re going to get wins.”