BUFFALO, N.Y. – Marcus Foligno looked up at the video board and was moved as the Buffalo Sabres said farewell to two of their most popular players.
Jhonas Enroth made 36 saves as the Sabres beat the San Jose Sharks 4-2 on Friday night, a few hours after they traded goalie Ryan Miller and captain Steve Ott.
“I’m not going to lie. It was pretty emotional watching the tribute,” Foligno said. “That was pretty nice what they did during the game, and those are two players that were hugely respected here in the city and respected Buffalo as well.”
Miller was set to start his 541st career game for the Sabres, but was pulled from the lineup just over an hour before the puck was dropped. The deal made Ted Nolan push Enroth into the starting lineup.
“I was sitting in the back, joking around with the trainers about all these trade rumours and I told them hopefully it doesn’t happen on game day, especially against the Sharks,” Enroth quipped. “Three minutes after, Coach Nolan came up to me and told me I was starting, so I kind of jinxed myself there.
“After that, I was a bit more nervous than usual but I told myself I had nothing to lose.”
Enroth played well and the Sabres got goals from Cody Hodgson, Brian Flynn, Matt Moulson and Tyler Myers.
It was Enroth’s second consecutive win after he snapped a 0-10-4 slump with a 5-4 overtime win against Boston on Wednesday, which was his first home win since April.
With the trade of Miller, Buffalo was forced to reach into their new hockey academy staff for a backup goaltender. HarborCenter director of technology Ryan Vinz was Buffalo’s No. 2 goaltender after being a video co-ordinator at Clarkson University.
James Sheppard and Patrick Marleau scored for San Jose.
With the trade, Buffalo general manager Tim Murray struck his first major deal since being hired in January, acquiring goalie Jaroslav Halak, forward Chris Stewart, prospect William Carrier, a 2015 first-round pick and a conditional 2016 third-round pick.
Murray later explained that the pick in 2016 could turn into a first-round pick in this year’s draft if the Blues reach the Western Conference finals or Miller re-signs with St. Louis before the draft.
The win gave Buffalo three straight wins for the first time since last April, and Myers said the milestone carries significance.
“It feels good,” he said. “We knew what position we were in going into this game, and we really wanted it. Hearing the news before the game we wanted it that much more.”
The Sabres opened the scoring on a power-play goal 10:59 into the first period, as Antti Niemi couldn’t hold on to Hodgson’s wrist shot. It was Hodgson’s 15th goal and his first since Jan. 28.
Enroth made a glove save of Matt Irwin’s slap shot through traffic with under seven minutes to play to keep Buffalo ahead. He made another strong glove save 7:22 into the second period when Marleau was left uncovered in the slot.
“It was kind of late notice,” Enroth said of getting the word he was starting, “but I just told myself to relax, go out there and compete.”
Moments after Enroth stopped Marleau, Myers beat Niemi off a rush up the right side, but his shot clanked off the cross bar.
After another pair of saves, Enroth was beaten when Sheppard forced a puck between the goaltender’s legs after a shot rebounded off the end boards.
The Sharks finished the second period with a 31-13 advantage in shots on goal.
“We knew they’d be ready,” Sharks centre Joe Pavelski said. “We had our chances to score early and we didn’t, fell behind, climbed back and just didn’t turn the corner like we needed to.”
Buffalo restored its lead 4:33 into the third when Zemgus Girgensons won a faceoff back to Flynn, whose wrist shot beat Niemi.
The Sabres doubled their advantage four minutes later when Myers jumped into the play from the right point to feed Moulson in the slot, who scored over Niemi’s shoulder.
Marleau brought the Sharks within one with a one-timer with 1:15 left in regulation. Joe Thornton picked up his 50th assist of the season on the goal.
“They played hard,” Thornton said of the Sabres. “Obviously, I’m sure a lot of feelings over there with two teammates. it’s a tough business, but they played well tonight.”
Myers added an empty-net goal with 21 seconds left to give him a goal and two assists on the night.
“Tyler Myers is really starting to come into his own,” Nolan said. “I thought he was sensational tonight.”
NOTES: Tyler Ennis missed his second straight game for Buffalo with “undisclosed soreness” … San Jose LW Raffi Torres was scratched after scoring two goals in his season debut Thursday