After last night’s 7-2 loss in Philadelphia, earning a point against a rested team would normally be considered a victory for the Buffalo Sabres. But at this point in the season, they can’t afford to be giving anything away.
Max Pacioretty scored the game-deciding goal and Carey Price stopped both Buffalo shooters as the Montreal Canadiens edged the Sabres 4-3 in a shootout on Friday night at First Niagara Center.
Buffalo was able to lock things down defensively tonight, limiting the Canadiens to just 19 shots in 65 minutes – one night after allowing seven goals on 35 shots in Philadelphia. But it was special teams that once again haunted the Sabres.
They failed to score on three power plays, while the Canadiens managed to score once on just two man advantage situations. The Sabres have now given up five power play goals in their past three games, and have scored just twice in 30 power plays over their last 11 games.
Time is becoming of the essence for the Sabres, and head coach Lindy Ruff knows how important special teams have to be if they are going to make a push for a playoff spot.
“We went on a pretty good (5-0-1) run. We gave three back and now it’s another overtime loss,” he said. “This was a game we should’ve put away, but didn’t. Those are points that cost you dearly. The early discipline probably gave them just a little bit of life. Even the fact we did a pretty good job killing. All we needed was Robyn (Regehr) to get the puck down the ice late on that one kill when he was in the neutral zone and I think that penalty’s over but he made a mistake and paid for it.
“Right now, pucks are going off sticks and bouncing off the ice, deflecting top corner, we can’t keep the puck out of our net killing penalties and we’re usually a good penalty killing team.
After taking a 1-0 lead on Robyn Regehr’s first goal of the season, the Sabres had to kill a cross-checking penalty to Thomas Vanek that Ruff thought could have been avoided. Montreal tied the game one second after Vanek’s penalty expired.
“It’s an issue that has to be dealt with. It’s something that I’ve talked to him at length about at times. That’s the type of penalty early that referees love to call. You can see the blow that Roy took late. Those don't get called, but early in the game, a lot of those get called. It was the early penalty last night and then the early penalty again tonight. He’s taking way too many minor penalties.”
Tyler Myers agreed that discipline has to be the key for the Sabres to get back in the race.
“Those are penalties we can't take and it's killed us the last two games so we've got a lot to figure out before we start winning games here,” said Myers, who picked up his 100th career point while also playing in his 200th career game. “For the most part of that game, other than our penalty kill, I thought we dominated the play for the most part. We worked really hard down low. We generated some chances. Just once again, penalties killed us.”
Regehr, Myers and Tyler Ennis scored for Buffalo, while Montreal got their goals from Tomas Kaberle, Scott Gomez and Chris Campoli.
The shootout loss, coupled with Carolina’s 3-2 win over San Jose, dropped the Sabres into last place in the Eastern Conference with 54 points (24-7-7). They are nine points out of eighth spot in the conference with 24 games left to play.
Tonight’s game concluded Buffalo’s 16th of a league-high 21 sets of back-to-back games. They are now 5-7-4 in the second game, and have a record of 9-7-0 in the first game.
The Sabres wrap up their stretch of three games in four days on Sunday when they host Pittsburgh in their only afternoon home game of the season at 12:30 p.m.
1-0 BUF: Regehr gets his first of the year when his point shot deflects off Emelin in the slot and goes past Price. (4:16)… 1-1: With Vanek’s penalty expiring, Kaberle sneaks in down low and taps Desharnais’ pass into the net (11:26)… 2-1 BUF: Some hard work by Roy along the boards springs the puck free to Myers, and he buries a wrist shot (15:43)… 2-2: Gomez takes a slapshot from the top of the circle that changes direction when it hits Regehr’s stick (19:46, PP)… Shots: BUF-11, MTL-9
3-2 MTL: Campoli uses Gomez as a screen, firing a wrist shot past Miller from the slot (11:28)… Shots: BUF-7, MTL-4
3-3: Leino’s spinning backhand pass from behind the net finds Ennis all alone in front and he makes no mistake with a wrister (11:55)… Shots: MTL-12, BUF-11
No scoring… Shots: BUF-3, MTL-0
SABRES NOTES: Cody McCormick (upper body) and Marc-Andre Gragnani (healthy) were Buffalo’s scratches… McCormick has now missed four games, and has not practiced since being injured against Dallas one week ago tonight.