The Buffalo Sabres ran up a 3-1 first period lead on the Canadiens and then survived a third period push to skate away with a 3-2 win Tuesday night at the Bell Centre. The Sabres win ended an epic 14 game losing streak which included 14 losses in a row on the road, a streak that started and ended after games in Montreal. Drew Stafford, Matt Moulson and Brian Gionta scored the Sabres goals. Brandon Prust and David Desharnais for the Canadiens who outshot Buffalo 34-18 including 15-3 in the third period. The game’s three stars were Sabres goaltender Jhonas Enroth, Desharnais and Gionta.
Adding It Up –
No Respect – In today’s NHL you cannot disrespect an opponent and that’s exactly the attitude the Canadiens had to start this game. What is troubling is the failure to learn from their lackadaisical losing effort against Arizona on Sunday and if not that, there should have been some conscious memory of that lost two game weekend against the Sabres back in November. But, apparently not.
Decided Early – It became quickly apparent that the Canadiens’ collective head was in a different space before the game was five minutes old. Carey Price had to deal with three naked giveaways in the first three minutes and just past five minutes on the third blunder Drew Stafford scored on his own rebound to get the Sabres night going.
Confusion Reigns – Michel Therrien called it a “lack of focus” in the first period. Not even the goal by Brandon Prust to tie it at 1-1 could get the Habs mind on the game. The Canadiens defense was in mass confusion when Matt Moulson spun around to beat Price through the five hole in the 15th minute and Brian Gionta bounced a puck off a confused looking Nathan Beaulieu with 41 seconds remaining in the period for what was the game winner.
A Climb Too Steep – The odds of a comeback from a two goal deficit are long, even against a team like the Buffalo Sabres. The Canadiens lack of attention to detail dug them into their hole and the Sabres wouldn’t let them out of it despite the fact they were outshot 25-11 by the Habs through the second and third periods. Jonas Enroth was good in the Buffalo nets but the Canadiens were also complicit by failing to mount a consistent attack. Their shooting was awful. In the second and third period the Canadiens missed the Buffalo net 20 times and the Sabres defense led by Josh Gorges blocked another 31.
Part of the Problem – Therrien broke up Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty in the third period, David Desharnais back to centre. It seemed to wake Desharnais up. He scored in the third period to narrow it to 3-2. Pacioretty was another matter. Nothing was going to help his compete level. His puck handling was awful. His passing was off the mark. His timing was gone and when it came to producing offense, Pacioretty was a non-factor. Of his ten shot attempts, only one reached the net, seven were blocked and three completely missed. He wasn’t alone of course, but an ineffective Pacioretty on a team as offensively challenged as this one is, can be compared to racing a car that’s missing third gear.
Other Things Worth Mentioning – …..All of the Canadiens go-to players were AWOL in this game with the exception of Andrei Markov. ……There were no big saves in Carey Price‘s arsenal. He gave up three goals on 7 shots and faced only 11 more the rest of the night. ……P.K. Subban did a lot of skating and dazzled with some of his stickhandling but didn’t accomplish very much. ……Markov on the other hand was very good with 12 shot attempts – five of them on goal. ….Jacob de la Rose made his NHL debut and didn’t look out of place as a third or fourth liner. Therrien liked him enough to give him 19 shifts. He had a pretty good scoring chance that was blocked in the 13th minute of the third period. ….The Corsi numbers will show the Canadiens with a massive territorial and possression advantage – 92 shooting attempts to 40. Didn’t mean a thing in this game.
Moving On – The Canadiens will face another of those two game weekends. The New Jersey Devils at the Bell Centre Saturday and then in Boston Sunday. Is it dangerous to presume the Canadiens will treat the struggling Devils with a little more respect than they afforded Buffalo?