After scoring eight goals versus the Minnesota Wild on Sunday, Montreal returned home to take on the Buffalo Sabres for another important match up. Early in the first, Carey Price turned the puck over when he tried to play it from behind his net. He attempted to clear it along the boards but the puck took a funny bounce and went towards Tyler Ennis. Luckily for Price his defenseman was covering Ennis and cleared the puck away. Drew Stafford showed us some good back-checking on the next shift, when he took the puck away from Lars Eller robbing him of a quality shot. Buffalo had lots of jump in this period as they continued to apply pressure in the Habs zone. Their forecheck was a little too aggressive however and this led to Brad Boyes taking a tripping penalty. Montreal showed nice poise on this power play, as they managed multiple shots on Ryan Miller including a couple of point shots from James Wisniewski. Miller was up to the task during the entire two minutes and made sure to keep the game scoreless.
Shortly after, the Sabres started to reapply pressure in the Habs zone leading to Hal Gil taking a tripping penalty. On their first power play, the Sabres had a hard time setting up shop with the exception of one play. About halfway through the power play, Ennis was all alone to the left of Price. He received a crisp pass from his teammate and with Price out of position he deflected the puck over the net. Not scoring a goal did not deter the Sabres as they continued to play their style of hockey and this eventually led to another power play. Montreal quickly snuffed out the sabres second power play and made sure that they did not receive any quality scoring chances with the extra man.
The Habs finally started to find their legs towards the end of the period with Michael Cammalleri taking a slot shot on Miller. Seconds later Gionta missed a great chance when his shot just missed the top corner with Miller on his knees. Miller followed up with two more saves one on Paul Mara and the other on Andrei Kostitsyn. Price had to be sharp at the other end when Andrej Sekera forced him to make a save from close range. David Desharnais tried to beat Miller one more time at the end of the period but Miller was ready and made the save. This was a period that was ruled by good defensive coverage and good goaltending.
Buffalo went straight to the attack early in the second and this led to a mad scramble in front of Price during an early penalty kill. Thomas Vanek took multiple whacks at it during the scramble but Price held the fort until P.K. Subban got a chance to clear it. Vanek was clearly frustrated during the sequence as seconds later he collided with Price causing him to be sent to the penalty box. After a brief unorganized power play from the Habs, Nathan Gerbe busted through the middle drawing a hooking penalty. Montreal failed to touch the puck right away allowing Miller to be replaced for an extra man. This led to Price having to rob Cody McCormick with a big kick save. On the ensuing penalty kill Montreal continued to excel as they prevented the Sabres from settling the puck in their zone.
Buffalo continued to be determined as they kept winning the battles to the puck. This led to a stray puck making its way along the boards to Tyler Myers. Myers took the shot right away and Gerbe deflected it while in front to beat Price top corner for the 1-0 lead. The Habs tried to respond with a good shift from Eller’s line but they just could not hit the net with quality shots. The trend continued as Benoit Pouliot had a good chance on a wrap around attempt but he lost the puck before taking the shot.
The Sabres came looking for more and almost got it. With his defensemen scrambling, Price had to make back to back saves on Boyes and Ennis from close range. The pattern continued until the last minute of play of the period. That was when Desharnais’ line started to control the puck in Buffalo’s zone and almost beat Miller in the process. Miller held his own during this attack and on the next when Scott Gomez and P.K. Subban took their shot at him. Failing to score on this last minute flurry meant that the Habs would head back to the dressing room down by a goal.
Similar to the first, Price had to be alert in the third when the puck once again took a funny hop of the boards. This time the puck rolled along the crease and Price skated back calmly to clear it away. The Habs mixed up their lines a little for this period but it was Buffalo who had more jump in this period as well. This led to Wisniewski taking another penalty for the Habs but just like the previous attempts Buffalo failed to generate anything with the extra man. After killing their fifth penalty of the game Montreal received their best scoring chance of the game. The play occurred when Travis Moen decided to shoot the puck quickly from a bad angle. The puck squeaked past Miller and made its way towards the back of the net until Mike Weber managed to kick it back to Miller who then covered it while in a snow angel position.
Miller continued to shine from there as he made saves on Cammalleri, Wisniewski and Gionta respectively. With 1:24 to play Montreal called a time out and pulled Price in the process. The Habs tried to make a play and force the tying goal but it just wasn’t meant to be. Gerbe jumped on the puck when Kostitsyn juggled it along the blue line. He then pursued the puck towards a falling Wisniewski and his battling paid off when he was rewarded with an empty netter to ice the game.
The Habs will now travel to Boston and look to pull back to within one point of the Bruins for the division lead this Thursday.
HiD Three Stars
- Nathan Gerbe
- Carey Price
- Ryan Miller
HiD Turning Point
The Habs failure to generate traffic and attempt to get an ugly goal led to their demise in this game.