BUFFALO – Tyler Ennis said he was simply trying to hit his spot on the Sabres’ set breakout. Both wingers are supposed to loop. He had no intention of trying to pick Ryan White.
“All of a sudden he was going to my ice,” Ennis said Wednesday following the Sabres’ 3-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens, their fifth straight defeat.
With the Sabres down 2-1 with 2:58 remaining, a referee whistled Ennis for interference, giving the Canadiens’ lethal power play an opportunity to seal the game.
Sure enough, Brendan Gallagher scored, extinguishing any comeback chances before the 18,497 fans inside the First Niagara Center.
“Very unfortunate,” Ennis said about taking a late penalty. “I feel terrible about.”
Penalties, of course, have been dooming the Sabres. They’ve allowed seven power-play goals during their losing skid. The Canadiens and their No. 1 road power play scored tallied twice.
“We’re talking about penalties again,” Sabres goalie Ryan Miller said after a 10-minute players-only meeting. “That’s all I have to say about that.”
The Sabres had just killed Tyler Myers’ questionable boarding call minutes before Ennis went off.
“The one thing we asked our team to do is compete, and we competed,” interim Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. “Tyler Myers’ penalty is just one of those things. I really didn’t think it was a penalty. I don’t have the stripes on.
“When things are difficult, it’s easy to point fingers. But this group is really starting to pay attention. We’re making strides in the right direction.”
He added: “I’m never happy after a loss. But I’m happy with the way we started competing.”
The meeting, Nolan said, “shows me they’re really starting to care.”
“They’re starting to talk amongst themselves,” he said. “Some of the best coaching is less coaching. Let them coach themselves.”
Nolan will be coaching a new player, Matt D’Agostini, a winger the Sabres claimed from Pittsburgh on Wednesday. D’Agostini should practice today, Nolan said.
To make room on the 23-man roster, the Sabres waived winger Corey Tropp.
Nolan said Pat LaFontaine, the president of hockey operations, brought D’Agostini’s availability up to him.
“He’s only 27 years old,” Nolan said. “He scored 21 goals in this league, played with some really good organizations. … He’s still young. So he has a second chance. You never know.”
D’Agostini has one assist and four penalty minutes in eight games this year. The Sabres are his fourth team since last season. He also played for St. Louis and New Jersey. He began his career with Montreal.
He has 47 goals, 96 points and 125 penalty minutes in 275 NHL games. He scored a career-high 21 goals and 46 points with St. Louis in 2010-11.
Why risk losing the 24-year-old Tropp, the 89th overall pick in 2007?
“We’re in bottom place here,” Nolan said. “So we have to start shaking the tent here a little bit here and start making these guys appreciative of where we are. We’re in the National Hockey League. We have to be on your toes every game because this could happen to anybody.”
Tropp, who missed most of last season after tearing up his right knee, can’t develop playing five or six minutes on the fourth line, Nolan said. Rochester is a better place.
“We have to give him some real minutes, let him see what kind of player he can be,” Nolan said. “I don’t know if he’s going to be a fourth-line chipper. Is he going to be a third-line guy? So we have to let him play and find out.”
Tropp compiled one point in nine games this season. He debuted late after breaking his jaw during a preseason fight.
He has three goals, nine points and 20 penalty minutes in 43 NHL games. He missed most of last season after tearing up his right knee in Rochester. Nolan scratched him last week.
Notes: Matt Moulson scored the Sabres’ lone goal, his first in 12 games. … Alex Galchenyuk and David Desharnais (power play) scored the Canadiens’ other goals. … Sabres captain Steve Ott left the game briefly after Galchenyuk’s stick cut him near the nose. Ott quickly skated off, leaving blood on the ice. He was sporting a large cut following the game. “I barely felt it, to be honest with you,” Ott said. “It sliced me so quick and so easy between the eyes.”