sabres march 23The Buffalo Sabres scored on a 5-on-3 power play and took advantage of a broken stick to beat the Canadiens 2-1 Saturday night at the Bell Centre.  The two man advantage came after P.K. Subban was charged with clearing the puck over the glass and Christian Ehrhoff scored on a screen shot.  In the final minute of the second period Brendan Gallagher broke his stick on a pass which was intercepted and led to a goal by Thomas Vanek.  The Canadiens tried to come back in the third period, outshooting the Sabres 17-5 but the best they could do was a power play goal from Michael Ryder.  Total shots on goal were 39-18 in favour of the Canadiens.  The three stars were Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller, Vanek and Ryder.

Adding It Up –

Giveaway & Takeaway  – The Canadiens won the first period hands down.  They used their speed to force the Sabres into six recorded giveaways, 3 takeaways and more than a dozen hurried passes.  They had 13 shots on a shaky looking Miller who was prone to rebounds.  For all that, they had nothing to show.

Mid Way – At the ten minute mark of the second period it was as lopsided a goalless 0-0 game as you might find.  The Canadiens were outshooting the Sabres 19-6.

Penalty Trouble – At 9:09 Michael Blunden went off for interference and the 39 seconds later P.K. Subban cleared the puck into the crowd.  It was called delay of game.  Replays weren’t clear but the opinion along press row was it hit the glass before it went into the crowd.

Paying the Price – On the five on three Christian Ehrhof led a hard slapshot go from the line that threaded it’s way to the back of the net.  1-0 Buffalo.  The Sabres seventh shot of the game.  The Canadiens had 19 at that point.

Confidence Shaken – Over the next 9:35 the Sabres outshot the Canadiens 7-3.  Their seventh shot hurt.  Brendan Gallagher bringing the puck out of his own end broke his stick attempting a hard pass in the direction of David Desharnais.  The result was a floater that was intercepted Ville Leino who caught the Canadiens going the wrong way.  Thomas Vanek wound up alone in front of Price and scored,.  2-0.

On the Board – If the delay of game penalty to P.K. Subban was a bad one, the tripping call on Marcus Foligno was just as bad.  Replays showed that Foligno’s stick didn’t touch Alexei Emelin as he fell to the ice.  On the power play Michael Ryder tipped a Andrei Markov shot up over Miller to make it 2-1.

Closing It Out – Try as they might, the Canadiens couldn’t solve Miller despite outshooting the Sabres 10-2 through the final eleven minutes.  First loss in regulation time since the game at Long Island on February 7th.  Their record over the last 20 games is now 14-2-4.  Ryan Miller is now 8-1-1 in his last ten Bell Centre starts.

One of those Games –  The Canadiens had the puck all night.  Along with their 39 shots, there were another 31 blocked and 15 that missed the net, a total of  85 attempts.  The Sabres had only 31.

A Hard Fact – Josh Gorges made a solid point.  The Canadiens have to score three goals a game to give themselves a chance to win on a nightly basis.  In three of the last four games the Canadiens have scored two or fewer goals three times.  This follows a winning stretch of eight straight with three or more.  In the three games in which they failed to produce they got away with a 2-1 win in at New Jersey but lost both games to Buffalo by 3-2 and 2-1 scores.

What it Means – With Bruins losing in Toronto Saturday night, the game Tuesday night in Boston looms large.  The Canadiens still lead the Northeast Division by two points over the Bruins with Boston now holding only one game in hand.  Including the 4-3 Canadiens win in Boston March 3rd, the Bruins are 6-5-1 while the Canadiens are 7-2-1.