Chris Higgins said it best when this one was over.
“It’s getting annoying going into the third period being down every time. It would a lot easier if we went into the third period with the lead.”
Can’t argue with that logic. Then again, if Higgins buried the first-period opportunity he had against Ryan Miller, the Canadiensmight have gone into the dressing room after 20 minutes of hockey with a lead. But they didn’t, as the Habs fell 3-2 to the Buffalo Sabres at HSBC Arena.
Max Pacioretty was another Hab who had a splendid scoring opportunity in the opening period, and came away empty handed, as the Canadiens outshot the Sabres 15-5 in that first period.
But, it was something to build on, right?
Twenty-seven seconds into the second period, Jaroslav Spacek drifted a long shot from just inside the Montreal blueline to beat Carey Price and give the Sabres a 1-0 lead. The goal took the air out of Montreal’s sails, for the next 10 minutes. However, the Canadiens did manage to net the equalizer, thanks to some hard work by Pacioretty down low, and more hard work by Saku Koivu, who won the battle in the corner and went to the net to beat Miller at 10:21 of the middle frame. However, that’s as close as the Canadiens would get on this night.
Nathan Paetschbeat Price with a shot from the inside edge of the faceoffcircle two minutes later to make it 3-1 Buffalo with Francis Bouillon and Mike Komisarek beaten badly on the play. Both Montreal d-men finished at -2 on the night.
Tim Connolly made it 3-1 Buffalo with the strangest goal of the night. Komisarek tried to bank one off the boards behind Price, but the puck took a weird bounce and ended up on Connolly’s stick. And before you could say “Well, what do we have here!?!?!”, Connolly drained his 9th goal in 9 games to make it 3-1 Buffalo.
Roman Hamerlik, who has emerged from his recent funk to play some splendid hockey of late, made it 3-2 Sabres with less than five minutes to play. But any chance of a Montreal comeback was snuffed out when Alex Kovalev took a tripping penalty with 1:57 left to go in this one. The penalty put an exclamation mark on a Kovalev performance that featured a grand total of zero shots on goal.
There was a very scary moment for Josh Gorges when the Canadiens’ defenceman took a shot from Matt D’Agostini. The puck hit Gorges at the point where the visor meets the helmet. And, except for a bit of a bloodied nose, Gorges came away unscathed. Like Hamerlik, Gorges has stepped up his game of late after going through some trying times since the all-star break.
Speaking of all-stars.
Carey Price? He’s been better. He NEEDS to be better. But he’s unlikely to get that chance tonight, when the Canadiens are at home to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Going into last night’s game, head coach Guy Carbonneau had left the door open for Jaroslav Halak against the Leafs.
I would suspect that door is wide open right now.