Montreal went into Buffalo on Friday night looking to extend their winning streak to four games. However, the home team had the last laugh in a wild and wacky affair as the Sabres took it 6-4.
The Habs made a pair of changes to their lineup from Tuesday’s win over Tampa Bay. Paul Byron returned up front in place of another former Sabre, Brian Flynn while Nathan Beaulieu’s lower body injury opened up a spot for Greg Pateryn to play his first game in over a month.
The first period got off to a good start for the visitors as Sven Andrighetto opened up the scoring on a nice one-timer snapshot off a pass from Max Pacioretty. That gave Montreal a nice boost but they weren’t able to double their lead.
David Legwand, who has had a fair amount of success against the Canadiens in his career – tied the game after being sprung on a breakaway with both Tomas Fleischmann and Mark Barberio failing to cover him. Unfortunately for Montreal, that wasn’t the only mental break that came back to bite them.
In the dying seconds of the period, Andrei Markov, who had a fair bit of time to move the puck, gave it away to Ryan O’Reilly. He promptly set up Marcus Foligno who executed a perfect feed to a wide open Evander Kane who had Ben Scrivens at his mercy and made no mistake to make it 2-1 after one. The Habs had the edge in shots by a count of 11-7.
The first period featured a few oddities. The second period was full of them.
Early on, former Hab Josh Gorges pinched in from the point to take a shot. That shot was blocked but then Scrivens fell down leaving Gorges with a wide open net to make it 3-1. That ended Scrivens’ night. Mike Condon came in and he allowed a goal on the first shot he faced as a centering feed from Phil Varone banked off Marcus Foligno to make it 4-1.
Game over? Not so fast. Alex Galchenyuk scored in the dying seconds of a 4-on-3 power play to cut the deficit to two. Then Andrighetto took advantage of a poor pass from Buffalo goalie Chad Johnson. The puck came up the boards to the Swiss winger who had a wide open net and converted for his second of the game. All of this happened before the seven minute mark.
After that, things settled down for a few minutes. Kind of. The Habs allowed a mini 3-on-0 that somehow didn’t result in a scoring chance while Alexei Emelin bailed out Greg Pateryn to stop another 2-on-1. Fortunately for the Habs, those didn’t come back to bite them.
However, Galchenyuk turned over the puck in the neutral zone late in the period to Foligno who then drew a penalty shot with Galchenyuk trying to slow him down. Foligno has never scored in an NHL shootout but he scored on this attempt to make it 5-3.
But, somehow, that wasn’t it for the period. With less than two minutes to go, a cross-ice pass hit a Buffalo defender just as he was climbing over the boards to get to the bench. That resulted in a too many men penalty for the Sabres and the Canadiens once again scored on the power play (two PPG’s in a period, another oddity) as Galchenyuk picked up his second of the night. The margin on the scoreboard remained the same as it did after twenty minutes but the two periods couldn’t have been any different. Shots were 12-11 for Montreal in the frame.
Not surprisingly, the third period wasn’t anywhere near as chaotic – at least in terms of scoring. Montreal threw everything but the kitchen sink at the Sabres but couldn’t beat Johnson for a fifth time.
The Habs pulled Condon with a minute and a half to go but shortly after that, the Sabres caught a big break as a clearing attempt hit a linesman and bounced right to Kane. P.K. Subban was covering on the play and was completely incensed to the point where he turned to scream at the referee while the play was on instead of sliding to block Kane’s shot that hit the empty net. Subban then completely lost his cool, going after the referee, the linesman, and anyone else that would listen to him before justifiably being ejected.
Condon stopped 11 of 13 shots in taking the loss in relief while Scrivens made just five saves on eight shots. At the other end, Johnson turned aside 26 of 30 Montreal shots. The Habs won the special teams battle, going 2/3 with the man advantage while Buffalo was 0/2.
HW Habs’ 3 Stars of the Night
1st Star: Alex Galchenyuk – While it was tempting to drop him considering his turnover led to the eventual game winner, Galchenyuk just had too good of a game to not put him here. His goals were both on his off-side off strong shots while he dominated at other times even though the puck didn’t go in. He looked like a third overall pick in this one.
Stats: 2 goals, -1 rating, 3 shots (7 attempts), 18:33 TOI
2nd Star: Sven Andrighetto – He seemed to enjoy being put on a scoring line as he put forth his best game of his young NHL career. His first goal was a great shot while he showed good patience to wait for the empty net goal off of Johnson’s gaffe. Nights like this will buy him more ice time moving forward.
Stats: 2 goals, even rating, 3 shots, 2 hits, 15:55 TOI
3rd Star: Brendan Gallagher – He didn’t score but he did just about everything but. If the Habs had the puck in the offensive zone, he was driving the net (and driving the Sabres’ players nuts). He usually plays with some feistiness but it felt like he had even more of an edge in this one.
Stats: 0 points, -1 rating, 5 shots, 18:44 TOI
Honourable Mention: Lars Eller – He’s in another of his long offensive slumps but it wasn’t for a lack of effort. He was the driving force on the third line and had a few good chances while leading both teams in shots. It’d be nice to see him get rewarded sooner than later though.
Stats: 0 points, -2 rating, 6 shots, 4/11 faceoffs, 14:30 TOI
Stat of the Night: Heading into the game, P.K. Subban had a point on the last twelve power play goals for the Canadiens, one shy of the franchise record set by Jean Beliveau. That streak came to an end on Galchenyuk’s first power play goal of the night as Subban was in the box serving a roughing penalty.