Three road games: all decided in overtime. At one point in each of the three games, the Canadiens trailed by two goals and came back. The last two games they trailed by two in third period and forced overtime.
The fact the Canadiens came home with four of a possible six points papers over some glaring early season warts.
Early in the game it looked like the Canadiens were going to chase the Sabres right into Lake Erie. Then in the game’s fourth minute Tomas Tatar took a bad neutral zone penalty. Just over a minute later on Buffalo’s fifth power play shot the Canadiens trailed 1-0 and along with the goal went the Canadiens early momentum. Three minutes into the third period Tatar was nailed for slashing. It took less than a minute for Jack Eichel to tie the game at 2-2. Again their was a shift in momentum. Despite doing some good things, Tatar earned the game’s goal horns. Including the two offensive zone penalties in Toronto, Tatar now has been issued four minor penalties the last two games. That has to change.
The lack of discipline also led to the game winner. Phillip Danault earned a slashing penalty with 35 seconds remaining in the third period. The winning goal in overtime came just five seconds after that penalty expired. The Canadiens power play seems to have improved. Their penalty killing hasn’t. Opponents have scored 4 on 13 advantages over the three games a horrible 69% kill rate. Buffalo amassed 14 shots on goal in their five advantages.
Joel Armia brings a lot to the Canadiens. He has size. He’s a relentless checker and a monster along the boards. And every once in a while he has a night like he had in Buffalo leaving everyone wanting yearning for more. Killing a penalty late in the first period, Armia checked the puck loose at centre ice for Nate Thompson. Armia then went on offense and got Thompson’s pass to tie the game at 1-1. Then in the final minute of the period on a Canadiens power play Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin was forced into a bad pass by Nick Suzuki. Armia went backhand to forehand to score to give the Canadiens a 2-l lead. Additionally Armia drew first assist on Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s goal and thanks to a third period Drouin setup, had a great chance to complete a hattrick. Armia brings a lot to the table for the Canadiens. When we see a game like this, one wonders why offense has rarely been part of his tool kit.
Keith Kinkaid made his first NHL start since February. I thought he was quite good in dealing with 39 Buffalo shots. Only fault I can find is Jack Eichel’s second goal which was launched from 40 feet out. He was most noticeable on two saves vs. the Sabres 40 goal scorer Jeff Skinner; one in the final minute of the second period and another with two and a half minutes remaining in regulation time which preserved the tie going into overtime..
ALSO WORTH MENTIONING
….Giving Nick Suzuki an assist on Armia’s second goal was generous. It was Dahlin who made the pass that Armia converted, although it was Suzuki’s forecheck that forced the bad play. Suzuki found himself on the fourth line with Paul Byron and Nate Thompson. Jordan Weal, who was having an excellent night replaced Suzuki on the Domi line with Lehkonen. Susuki was still used regularly on the power play.
….For the third straight game, it was hard to find fault in Jonathan Drouin’s effort. The company he’s keeping (Armia and Kotkaniemi) doesn’t hurt but Drouin is doing a lot of good things on his own both ends of the ice.. The Kotkaniemi line was the Canadiens best in Buffalo.
….Dominating faceoffs has not been Max Domi’s strong suit. After two periods he had won all ten and finished with 11 wins in 13 attempts (85%).
….For the game Claude Julien dropped third pairing defensemen Cale Fleury and Brett Kulak in favour of Christian Folin and Mike Reilly. Reilly finished plus-2 with an assist. Folin was plus-1.
The Canadiens will host the Detroit Red Wings in their home opener Thursday night at the Bell Centre. Carey Price will be in goal. It’s the start of a four game home stand with St. Louis in on Saturday night followed by Tampa and Minnesota next week.