After a tough loss on Tuesday, Montreal was hoping to get back on track on Wednesday as they hosted Buffalo. While they got a lead for the first time in a while, they blew it in the third en route to a 4-2 loss for the second straight night.
The Habs made two lineup changes for this one. Sven Andrighetto replaced Lucas Lessio who was injured on Tuesday night in Philadelphia while Alexei Emelin returned to the lineup, replacing Mark Barberio who was a healthy scratch.
Montreal got off to a good start in the opening frame, generating some good chances while attacking the zone with speed instead of trying to pass their way in. As has been the case lately though, those chances didn’t lead to anything.
Meanwhile, Buffalo took advantage of a defensive zone miscue when Emelin and Jeff Petry covered the same player. That left Marcus Foligno all alone in the slot, giving him plenty of time to beat Mike Condon through the five hole to open up the scoring.
That took the wind out of the Habs’ sails as they didn’t generate much in the way of chances after that, save for a power play. The Sabres, on the other hand, got better as the period went on and wound up generating most of the shots and chances in the back half of the period. The shots were 10-2 for the Canadiens early on but wound up 12-11 for the home side by the end.
Things went better for Montreal in the second period. On an early power play, it looked like they may have scored but the puck crossed the line after the whistle (and was kicked in by Max Pacioretty as it turns out). On the following shift, they made one count as Pacioretty fed Dale Weise who had an open net and made no mistake to tie the game.
The teams traded quality chances near the midway point of the frame. David Desharnais failed to score on a 3-on-1 off a nice pass from Weise while on the next shift, an Emelin giveaway led to an Evander Kane breakaway but Condon shut the door.
Moments later, off a Tomas Plekanec faceoff win in the offensive zone, Alex Galchenyuk picked up the puck, made some nifty moves to stickhandle to the front of the net and beat Robin Lehner through the five hole to give the Canadiens the lead which they continued to hold for the rest of the period. Buffalo outshot Montreal 10-9 in the middle stanza.
In recent games/weeks/months, the Habs have lacked a killer instinct. This game was no exception. Some may have thought an early crossbar from the Sabres may have been a good omen but alas, the usual breakdown would still happen.
Tom Gilbert took a tripping penalty and Jamie McGinn beat Condon on a trip play. Four minutes later, it was Johan Larsson beating Condon, also on a tip play. Montreal mustered up a bit of a last ditch effort with the goalie pulled but they couldn’t get the equalizer. Instead, Brian Gionta scored into the empty net from his own zone to end it.
Condon made 28 saves on 31 shots while Lehner turned aside 33 Montreal shots on goal. Both teams were successful with the man advantage, Montreal going 1/2 while Buffalo was 1/3.
HW Habs’ 3 Stars of the Night
1st Star: Alex Galchenyuk – After a quiet game against Philly, Galchenyuk was much more of a factor in this one. He made a great play to get to the net on his goal while taking several other strong shots as well. On the negative side, he played well enough that the coaching staff will keep him on the wing for another game.
Stats: 1 goal, even rating, 5 shots (8 attempts), 3 hits, 1 takeaway, 15:56 TOI
2nd Star: Dale Weise – I nearly gave him the honourable mention against the Flyers but another strong outing from him lands him one of the stars in this game. Weise didn’t hesitate to play physical (an area he has been hot and cold in at times lately) while he set up a few good chances while burying one of his own. That’s two straight good efforts from him after being dropped to the fourth line; a nice response for sure.
Stats: 1 goal, -1 rating, 2 shots, 6 hits, 15:51 TOI
3rd Star: Brendan Gallagher – His line (along with Galchenyuk and Tomas Plekanec) was Montreal’s best of the night. While Galchenyuk stood out the most, Gallagher was his typical pesky self; where there was a scrum, Gallagher was right there. He had a few good chances but unfortunately for the Habs was unable to capitalize.
Stats: 0 points, even rating, 4 shots, 1 takeaway, 14:56 TOI
Honourable Mention: Sven Andrighetto – The stats at the end of the day are nothing to write home about but Andrighetto was very active throughout the game. This is normal for him as he often looks good the first couple of games into a call-up, the key now for him is sustaining that over the longer term.
Stats: 0 points, even rating, 1 shot, 12:27 TOI
Stat of the Night: Galchenyuk’s second period goal gave the Habs their first lead in 196:24 of game action. Suffice it to say, it didn’t last long.