With fresh legs and fists from the likes of Patrick Kaleta, the Sabres faced off against the Montreal Canadiens tonight in what would be Kaleta’s first game back in the lineup since his controversial boarding hit that landed him a five-game suspension.
Talk about a tale of two teams in this matchup. First off we have the Montreal Canadiens, sitting high atop the Eastern Conference standings trailing just behind the Pittsburgh Penguins. And then we have the Buffalo Sabres, sitting second to last in the Eastern Conference just barely ahead of the struggling Florida Panthers. The last time these two teams faced off, the Sabres pulled out a last second come from behind victory and I was hoping for the same kind of excitement in this one, and coming down to the final moments, the Sabres had me on the verge of wetting my pants in this one.
Every night it seems as though I’m watching a new team on the ice when it comes to the Buffalo. In fact, every period they look like a different team. Some games this team looks like they do not belong in this league, with no chemistry whatsoever and just lackluster play throughout. And then there are those nights when I get a sense of false hope that this team might be on the verge of turning a new leaf this year. Tonight’s game looked to be more like the better side of Buffalo, but it’s at a point in the season when there’s too much ground to make up and just not enough going for them.
Good things happen when you get the puck on net. Pretty easy concept, right? The Sabres finally figured that out in the first period of this one getting a 2-0 lead on Montreal but were only able to keep the pressure on for a brief period of time. Getting shots on goal has been something they’ve struggled with all year, and without shots on goal, you can’t win hockey games. Buffalo also has one of the worst shots-against averages in the league which is no surprise to me as they were outshot by a big margin of 21-34 in this one.
As the second period rolled around, I had to hold my breath with this Sabres team, especially with Johnas Enroth in net. The Canadiens poured the pressure on for most of the second, but Enroth remained solid between the pipes, turning aside every scoring chance thrown his way. But before I give him too much credit, I heard plenty of, “and the shot misses just wide!” calls from RJ on several Montreal scoring chances.
Shots on goal were somewhat of a premium for the Sabres offense, manufacturing only two shots on goal throughout the entire period. Although Buffalo escaped the second with the lead, it wasn’t without the cost of Thomas Vanek who went down after taking a shot directly above his hip and did not return for the remainder of the game.
The Sabres watched their lead slowly slip away in the third period as the mounting pressure from Montreal proved to be too much as they tied it up late in the game. It was only a matter of time the way they continued to outshoot Buffalo throughout the majority of the contest and it looked as though the Sabres were about the let another late lead slip away.
Buffalo somehow found a way to stall the Canadiens’ momentum and come out on top on in this overtime thriller that had a Canadiens’ win written all over it. Steve Ott earned the game-winner and his second of the night on a powerplay goal that lifted the Sabres to the 3-2 victory.
Although giving up two goals in the third, Enroth really impressed me in this game. He looked very poised in net for Buffalo doing what he needed to get the W, including a HUGE save late in the game that would of gave Montreal the win.
One can only hope they can play some good hockey going forward, string together a few more wins, and give Sabres fans like us something to cheer about as this shortened hockey season continues to wind down.