The Sabres came from behind twice to edge the Canadiens 3-2 in overtime Saturday night. These are the same Buffalo Sabres who have missed the playoffs the last five years and are likely to make it six in a row. Yet, over those last five-plus seasons the Sabres have won nine of thirteen Bell Centre appearances.
The Sabres pattern in Montreal is a familiar one. They hang around, keeping a game close while looking for a break. The late breaks came and with it another Bell Centre win. In their last 13 games in Montreal Buffalo is 8-4-1.
OUT OF GAS –
Two games in 24 hours can’t be used as an excuse on this night. The Sabres also played 24 hours earlier. This was simply a failure to close the deal after getting the lead twice. They piled up 19 shots in the second period to take 1-0 and 2-1 leads but they could never get that important two-goal lead. All of the good things they did in the second period went away in the third. Buffalo outshot the Canadiens 14-7 and, but for two Carey Price saves in the final thirty seconds the Sabres could have won it in regulation time.
There has been a lot of hand wringing over Carey Price’s play over the last six or seven weeks. My suspicion has been many of Price’s problems have been heavily related to the way the team has been playing in front of him, especially in the absence of Andrei Markov and to a lesser extent Greg Pateryn. There can be no complaints about Price in this game. He faced 39 shots. Those two saves in the final 30 seconds of regulation time, first on the Matt Moulson breakaway and then the glove on Rasmus Ristolainen will make highlight reels all weekend.
There are nights when Alexander Radulov seems to skate a hundred miles, has the puck all night and accomplishes little beyond dominating the Corsi possession numbers. This was one of those nights. Not that this is a really bad thing, since even when he’s not producing offense, his forecheck and work ethic balances things out. Radulov had one shot on goal against the Sabres. It came midway through the third period and it was a good scoring chance. In overtime, it was Radulov’s pass to Galchenyuk that let to that astounding save by Robin Lehner.
THE PROSPECT –
Artturi Lehkonen scored another goal, his eleventh of the season. The goal came at the end of a hard-working shift in which he was first on the backcheck and then back in the offensive zone for a rebound off Jeff Petry’s shot. But for Lehner he might have had more. Lehner robbed him late in the second period, causing Lehknonen to break his stick over his knee in frustration. Chances seem good that Lehknonen will wind up producing twenty goals in his rookie season in North America.
….We started to see flashes of the Alex Galchenyuk before he missed 18 games with that knee injury. He’s not all the way back, and my guess would be Michel Therrien will leave him on the line with Sven Andrighetto and Andrew Shaw for at least one more game. Galchenyuk had four shots on goal in the game.
….Seems like every time Shaw has a brush with NHL discipline, the positive things in his game disappear. He was tossed from the Ranger game for boarding a week ago. Although he didn’t face any supplemental discipline it seems he’s become too cautious. Same thing happened when he was suspended during training camp.
….Once again I liked Jacob de la Rose’s play. He’s never going to score many goals, but he has size and he can skate and has an excellent defensive game.
….An indication of the Canadiens late game fade, the Sabres outhit the Canadiens 10-1 in the third period. Sometimes that means the Canadiens had most of the puck possession. Not in this case.
For the first time in a month the Canadiens will play a second consecutive game at home. They’ll face the Calgary Flames Tuesday night. It also means after a day off Sunday, for the first time in six weeks they’ll also be able squeeze in a meaningful practice on Monday. After Tuesday’s game they head for Brooklyn to play the Islanders Thursday just before the All-Star break.