Regarding last nights match-up between the Montreal Canadiens and the visiting Buffalo Sabres, there are three things that you should know:
1. Montreal was in 2nd place in the Eastern Conference, with a sparkling 19-5-4 record.
2. Buffalo was in 14th place in the Conference, with a dismal 10-15-4 record.
3. Between the end of the 1st period, and 8 minutes left in the 3rd period, Buffalo only recorded THREE shots on goal.
Based on the above, Montreal must have won the game, right?
Reminiscent of the Sabres meltdown loss to the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night, Buffalo played a stellar first period. The team came out with a different look lines-wise, as Thomas Vanek was demoted to the 2nd line with Tyler Ennis and Ville Leino, and Steve Ott was promoted to the top line with Cody Hodgson and Jason Pominville. The Sabres also appeared to employ a different game-plan than usual – chipping pucks along the boards to get through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone, rather than their often-failed attempts of carrying the puck through the zones.
Buffalo was actually winning the battles when it came to puck retrieval, digging in and getting dirty for once. The efforts were rewarded when Steve Ott provided a great individual effort to get Buffalo on the scoreboard 8 minutes into the game. With one minute remaining in the period, Tyler Myers sent a shot towards the net that was deflected in by Tyler Ennis for a 2-0 lead over the Canadiens.
Then, it looked like the ‘second period Sabres’ were making their return, just as they did against Ottawa. Montreal outshot Buffalo by an 11-2 margin, yet, the sparkling play of Jhonas Enroth kept the Canadiens from finding the back of the net, and the Sabres slid to intermission still clinging to the 2-0 lead. The period also found the Sabres losing Vanek to an injury, as he was struck with a shot.
Then, the wheels fell off in the third period.
Enroth made an astounding 26 of his 32 saves while protecting the Sabres lead. It was not enough, as Montreal stormed back with goals by Max Pacioretti and Colby Armstrong. The listless Sabres squad looked determined to lose another game in heartbreaking fashion, looking more and more exhausted as the game moved along, limping into overtime.
Just 17 seconds into the extra frame, P.K. Subban tried to mow over Sabres rookie Mark Pysyk in the open –ice, and caught him with a high stick. The NHL’s worst power-play unit since 2005 went to work, and for the 2nd time in the game, Steve Ott got himself a goal, propelling the Sabres to a 3-2 victory.
This marks the 4th game in a row that the Sabres have had a player with a 2-goal game (Foligno, Stafford, Hodgson, Ott). The win also moves interim coach Ron Rolstons’ record to 5-5-3. The loss marked the end of the Canadiens 5-game winning streak, but the club has still not lost a game in regulation in their last 18 games. The win moves the Sabres up to 13th in the standings, just 6 points outside of the final playoff spot, with 18 games remaining. The 6 points seperates a jumble of teams between 13th and 6th place, so Buffalo really has their work cut out for them down the final stretch.
Next up, the Sabres host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday.