Montreal returned to action Tuesday night, ready to face a Buffalo Sabres team who has also faced their fair share of adversity this season. With the Sabres being only two points behind the Habs in the standings, everyone expected this to be a playoff type game. What we got instead was one team who wanted it badly while the other seemed complacent throughout the night. Let’s be honest, if it wasn’t for Carey Price the scoreboard would have been much worse than the 3-1 loss that ensued.
Jason Pominville was the first player to get a shot on goal when he forced Price to make a save while being screened. Price went on to make a few more solid saves before Max Pacioretty managed to break free for a breakaway chance. Patches was stopped by Ryan Miller on the initial shot but stayed with the play and was able to cash in on his own rebound to give his team the early lead.
Both teams continued to exchange until the players received a little more ice to work with when both Cody McCormick and Scott Gomez got called for roughing. The Sabres got the better chances during the 4 on 4 play but were unable to solve Price.
At 17:05, Erik Cole forced a tripping call on Mike Weber when he used his speed to gain the zone. As expected the Habs squandered this power play opportunity as they struggled to muster any kind of attack. Buffalo drew a call of their own when Josh Gorges got caught hooking at the 19:46 mark. The Habs killed the clock to end the period, allowing the Sabres to start the second with the man advantage.
Buffalo started the second period strong as they cycled the puck in the Habs zone looking for the tying goal. Montreal did kill the penalty but the Sabres kept coming forcing Price to make multiple big saves in the process.
This patterned continued until Ville Leino finally solved Price with a quick wrist shot after he made Raphael Diaz look bad with a toe drag. Diaz read the play incorrectly giving Leino the shooting lane on the play. The Sabres kept coming for more and moments later P.K. Subban took a tripping penalty sending the Sabres back on the power play.
Alexei (Y) Emelin really stood out during this penalty kill as he threw a crushing hit on Pominville behind Price’s net and then followed that up with a sliding puck stop to take away a sure goal from Tyler Ennis. (Y) Emelin’s hard work paid off as the Habs killed this penalty off as well.
At the half way point of the period Montreal was being outshot 10 to 1 by the Sabres and looked like a team that was already ready to go home. This is when Cole decided to try and carry his team on his back as he created back to back scoring chances for himself.
On his first chance he managed to beat Miller with a nice wrist shot but failed to beat the post on his very next shift he entered the Sabres zone with a ton of speed and then made a nice move on the very large Tyler Myers before attempting a shot on goal. Unfortunately he lost control of the puck while eluding Myers and never got to complete the play.
The Sabres responded by going back on the attack and this gave us the first impressive defensive play by Tomas Kaberle since we acquired him from The Hurricanes. Kaberle actually timed a slide to block a pass allowing Price to regain position so he could make the save on Brad Boyes to end the flurry. In the dying seconds Lars Eller found Andrei Kostitsyn in the slot but his shot was blocked by a defenseman to end the period.
Buffalo continued to outhustle the Habs in the early stages of the third period and their determination paid off at the 6:17 mark. This is when the Hab defenders decided they would allow Boyes to skate around Price’s net without any real pressure allowing him to find Paul Gaustad near the crease. Gaustad was tied up by Hal Gill but his stick was free between Gill’s skates and he was able to tap in the Boyes pass past Price for the lead.
The Sabres continued to dominate the game causing the fans to start booing their team once again. A few shifts later the Habs finally started skating as the David Desharnais line created the first scoring chance in a while. This was followed by a strong effort by the Tomas Plekanec line but Miller had the last word on all of the shots.
Pacioretty had the best chance to tie the game when he took a shot from close range in what appeared to be a wide open cage. Miller somehow managed to get a piece of the puck with his shoulder sending the Habs back to the drawing board.
With time running out the Habs pulled Price hoping to get one last chance, instead they struggled just like the do on the power play coughing the puck up to Christian Ehrhoff. Ehrhoff took a long shot towards the net but missed it causing the puck to bounce back. Patrick Kaleta then beat three Habs to the puck before icing the game with an empty netter.
As the two teams made their way off the ice Paul Gaustad asked Max Pacioretty “Where’s Chara?” This drew the ire of many of the Habs especially Gorges. As much as I did not like the comment as it was completely uncalled for, maybe this will give the Habs some much needed fuel against the Sabres the next time they meet. For whatever reason the Habs always seem to struggle against Buffalo and that has definitely been the case this season. If they players had played the entire game with the type of passion that was displayed by Gorges and company during this sequence the outcome of the game could have been quite different, but it wasn’t.
HiD Three Stars
- Ville Leino
- Patrick Kaleta
- Carey Price
HiD Turning Point
The Habs disappeared in the second period allowing the Sabres to control the game.