WINNIPEG – The Winnipeg Jets used a struggling Buffalo Sabres team to get their power play working again.
Tobias Enstrom scored a tiebreaking goal with the man advantage during the second period and the Jets defeated the Sabres 4-1 on Thursday.
It was the first of two Winnipeg power-play goals on the night, a welcome change considering the Jets had none in their previous five games.
“We’ve been struggling a bit on the PP,” said Enstrom. “We’ve been trying to get some pucks at the net and scored some goals and today it worked out fine for us.”
Andrew Ladd, Tim Stapleton and Nik Antropov also scored for the Jets (22-20-5).
Drew Stafford had the only goal for Buffalo (19-23-5), which went 0-2 with the man advantage and has lost seven of its last eight games. The Sabres are 11th in the East with 43 points, four back of Winnipeg.
“You’ve got to win that battle,” Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff said of special teams. “We had a tough time getting shots through. They got theirs.”
Ruff added that he knew it would be tough as he brought a tired, injury depleted Sabres team into the MTS Centre, where the Jets have had most of their wins this season.
Jets coach Claude Noel wasn’t celebrating too much with Winnipeg only 3-6 in the month of January and still out of playoff territory in the East.
“We missed some D-zone assignments . . . and our goaltender helped us out, I think we were a little bit fortunate,” he said. “We’ve got some work to do here.”
Bryan Little was happy they were finally able to finally break through with the man advantage.
“It just seemed like we were a different team tonight altogether,” he said. “It was a big win for us and hopefully we can get something going now.”
Little also said it was good to have the team’s top scorer back in the lineup. Like the Sabres, injuries have depleted the Jets all season and the latest was Blake Wheeler, back after taking a puck in the neck last Saturday.
He didn’t score but he picked up an assist on Enstrom’s goal.
The Sabres were spectators in the first period as they were outskated and outshot 19-10.
A lot of those shots weren’t much of a threat but Ron Hainsey finally slammed one from the point at 11:34 that went in off Ladd, his 16th of the season. Hainsey got credit for it briefly and it would have been his first, had it stuck.
Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller got more of a break in the second as the Sabres picked up the pace and Stafford evened things up at 4:18 getting one past Winnipeg’s Ondrej Pavelec.
Pavelec gave the Sabres credit for a slick play.
“I don’t think I even touched the puck,” he said.
Enstrom put the Jets in front again at 12:55 with his third goal in as many games and Stapleton added some insurance with his power-play goal early in the third.
Antropov added the last with less than two minutes left.
Miller finished with 29 saves on 34 shots. Pavelec stopped 25 shots.
Notes: His two assists moved Kyle Wellwood to the 200-point mark in his career. Enstrom has now scored in the last three games and this is his first scoring streak ever.
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version had a reference to an empty net goal.