The six game tour of the Northeast division continued for Montreal tonight as they took on the Buffalo Sabres in yet another back-to-back series. With Carey Price carrying the load the last time, Petr Budaj got the call tonight looking for his first win in his second start. For Buffalo a struggling Ryan Miller was between the pipes and was looking to improve his 3-4-1 record. After a disappointing 2-1 loss to the Boston Bruins the Habs knew they had to come swinging out of the gate if they were to get anywhere against a Sabres squad who has lost three straight.
Now is it just me or have the Habs scored first in almost every game after the opening night loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs? Well either way Tomas Plekanec got Montreal on the board first and early with a beauty snapshot for his fifth goal of the season. Assists credited to Bourque (3) and Emelin (2). However this only started a sequence of events that I have not witnessed involving the Habs in a long time. Just 15 seconds later Steve Ott would tie the game (2) with a wrist shot that caught Budaj completely off guard beating him five-hole. The lone assist went to Jochen Hecht (3). The last meeting between these two teams saw Montreal run away with a 6-1 thrashing but whenever the Canadiens applied pressure Buffalo found a way to come storming back.
One half of the “Gally Squad” Brendan Gallagher would beat Ryan Miller at the 12:31 mark of the second period for his fourth of the season with a wrist shot I am quite sure Miller was unprepared for. Assists credited to Prust (2) and Diaz (9). Who knew the kind of impact Brandon Prust would have when he signed that four-year contract. No one knew who he would be paired with and after tonight he and the “Gally Squad” combine for 16 points and a +18 rating. Lightning would strike once more just 35 seconds later as Tyler Ennis scored his fourth of the season from Foligno (5) and the game was tied yet again. Anything you can do I can do better I suppose. This game resembled a welterweight fight (not heavyweight as these two teams don’t quite fit that bill) where both sides traded blows until only one was left standing. At the 18:32 mark while on the power play P.K Subban utilized his rocket of a shot to net his second goal of the season to put the Habs up 3-2. Assists credited to Markov (6) and Pacioretty (6). A one goal lead heading into the third period only this time the outcome would be different than 24 hours ago.
Can we all just agree Tomas Plekanec is having a tremendous start to this season? Last year he appeared to be snake bitten when it came to scoring goals however that does not seem to be the case thus far. Just 45 seconds into the third frame he would net his second of the night (sixth of the season) to put the Habs up 4-2 with albeit plenty of time remaining. Brian Gionta would notch his third assist on the play. Then like a few times before this season Ryan White would let his emotions get the better of him as he foolishly took a roughing penalty resulting in a double minor after dropping the gloves immediately after being hit by Steve Ott. This firecracker needs to find a way to channel that energy as it would eventually cost his team a power play from the stick of Thomas Vanek who easily backhanded the puck past a sprawling Petr Budaj for his ninth goal of the campaign and 20th point as well. Assists credited to Ennis (4) and Foligno (6). Every time the camera panned to Coach Michel Therrien you can see the veins pulsating in his forehead and his face turn a mean shade of red but could you blame him? White is quickly playing himself out of favour.
Now as if this game did not have enough twists for the average hockey fan there was at least one more surprise that would deliver yet another blow to Montreal. With the Sabres pressing and Budaj seemingly on top of the puck a sprawling, reaching Thomas Vanek poked through Budaj’s legs to push the puck over the goal line with just 1.9 seconds left to send the game into overtime not to mention the First Niagara Center into a frenzy. The goal would be reviewed but to no avail as the goal marked Vanek’s 10th and 21st point of the season. Overtime would solve nothing as we went to a shootout where last season the Habs would have preferred to roll over and die than rather push for the extra point. After trading saves and goals which included Alex Galchenyuk’s first career shootout goal but it would be Captain Jason Pominville who would win it for the Sabres who was down two goals in the third period.
Overall, this loss belongs to 50% Ryan White and 50% Petr Budaj. With a two goal lead there was absolutely no reason for him to react the way he did. Steve Ott was wise not to engage but then again White really did not give him any time to react. I foresee the press box in his future. As for Budaj it is the goalie’s job to steal games in the shootout and tonight Flanders was unable to do so. Well at least he was able to grab a point this time around, I guess. Up next for our Habs is the Toronto Maple Leafs who have not played exceptionally well lately. This test will be one of Montreal’s greatest considering each and every time these two teams get together it is always one heck of a matchup.
GO HABS GO