Bourque, Desharnais strike twice as Habs rout Sabres

Arpon Basu  - Managing Editor | Wednesday, 08.06.2014 / 4:52 AM

MONTREAL – The Montreal Canadiens wanted to make the Bell Centre a feared venue for opposing teams again after finishing last in the NHL in home wins last season.

Thus far, they are doing just that.

The Canadiens took advantage of a flat Buffalo Sabres club Saturday afternoon to register their fourth straight win on home ice in a 6-1 blowout victory in the front end of their traditional Super Bowl weekend matinees.

Coach Michel Therrien made it a priority for the Canadiens from the day he was hired in June to improve on last season's home record of 16-15-10, and the early returns look promising with a record of 4-1-0 at Bell Centre.

"I always believed this is the greatest place to play," Therrien said. "We have to play a game where we're pushing the pace, because I believe our team has speed. And pushing the pace makes it difficult on everyone. When we talk about being tough to play against, it's not only the physical aspect. It's our work ethic, our decisions with the puck, all these little things make teams tough to play against. Right now our team is buying into that."

The team did not have had much of a choice, because if the Canadiens continued to struggle at home to start this season, their playoff hopes could have been dashed very quickly.

The Canadiens' home game Sunday afternoon against the Ottawa Senators will be their sixth in eight games to start the season, part of a stretch that sees them play 12 of their first 18 games at home through Feb. 23. After that, the Canadiens will play 11 of 15 games on the road between Feb. 25 and March 27, so if they don't bank points at home now, it could make it difficult to make up ground later.

A big reason why the Canadiens are succeeding in doing that has been the resurgent play of Rene Bourque, who scored twice Saturday and has been a consistent performer on the team's top line with Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta.

Bourque struggled mightily after he was traded to the Canadiens by the Calgary Flames last season, and after undergoing abdominal surgery over the summer he says he was determined to show the team's fans the player they saw last season was not the one who put up back-to-back 27-goal seasons with the Flames in 2009-10 and 2010-11.

With three goals and two assists through seven games – a point total he had after his first 17 games with the Canadiens last season – Bourque is convincing people he can return to his form of old.

"I feel like I want to prove myself, prove that I'm a good player," Bourque said. "I never doubted myself. I had a tough time when I came over from Calgary, but over the summer I just wanted to focus on having a good season and making a difference on this team."

David Desharnais also scored twice, Lars Eller had a goal and two assists and Brendan Gallagher added a goal for the Canadiens (5-2-0), who welcomed defenseman P.K. Subban back into the lineup after he missed training camp and the first six games of the season in a contract dispute.

"When you're playing your first game and the team has a great start, it's sort of a relief and it's easier to handle the puck and do all that stuff," said Subban, who picked up his first point of the season assisting on Desharnais' second goal. "So I'm just happy with the win here today."

The Sabres were coming off a thrilling 7-4 win in Boston on Thursday, but none of that momentum appeared to make its way past the Canadian border and into Montreal.

"I think we left our heads in Boston," coach Lindy Ruff said.

The scorching-hot Thomas Vanek scored a shorthanded goal on a third period breakaway to snap Carey Price's shutout bid and make it a 5-1 game, but it was far too late for the Sabres (3-4-1) to muster a comeback.

Vanek's goal gave him at least a point in each of the seven games he's played and increased his League-leading total to 16 points.

Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller did not make it to the third period, getting pulled by coach Lindy Ruff at the second intermission after allowing four goals on 21 shots. It was the third straight game Miller has allowed four goals, and his save percentage over that span is .862 while his record is 1-3-1 over his last five starts.

Still, Ruff commended Miller for keeping the score at 1-0 after a first period where the Sabres were outshot 15-1.

"If Ryan doesn't play the way he did in the first, this could have really gotten out of hand," Ruff said. "It was out of hand as it was, but it could have really gotten out of hand."

Canadiens rookie Alex Galchenyuk had two assists for a third time in his last four games, giving the No. 3 pick in the 2012 NHL Draft a goal and six assists in seven games. Prior to the games Saturday night, that placed Galchenyuk third in rookie scoring behind Tampa Bay's Cory Conacher and St. Louis' Vladimir Tarasenko.

"I definitely put pressure on myself for the things I want to do, but coming into this League as an 18-year-old you don't expect to do [certain] things," Galchenyuk said. "You just have to stay patient and keep working hard and learn every day. That's what I think I'm doing."

Despite thoroughly dominating the first period, the Canadiens were eight seconds away from entering the first intermission in a scoreless tie. But a perfectly executed set play on the power play allowed Brian Gionta to find Bourque driving the net at 19:52 of the first to give Montreal a 1-0 lead.

The Sabres came out with some more life in the second, but it was the Canadiens who took over the game in the period.

Gallagher scored his third of the year when his attempt to complete a give-and-go play with Galchenyuk wound up bouncing in off the stick of Sabres defenseman Christian Ehrhoff at 2:03. Desharnais and Eller then scored goals 28 seconds apart at 10:08 and 10:36, with both getting their first goals of the season.

Bourque scored his second of the game at 1:22 of the third off a Tomas Plekanec feed that was a near carbon copy of his first goal, beating Sabres backup Jhonas Enroth on the first shot he faced.

Marcus Foligno grabbed a Raphael Diaz giveaway to send Vanek away of his shorthanded breakaway at 3:01 of the third, but Desharnais got his second on a power play at 12:43 after Eller corralled a rebound of a Subban shot and set him up with an open net.

Scoring Summary
1st Period
19:52MTL PPG - Rene Bourque (2) ASST: Brian Gionta (2), Tomas Plekanec (2) 1 - 0 MTL
2nd Period
02:03MTL Brendan Gallagher (3) ASST: Alex Galchenyuk (5), Francis Bouillon (3) 2 - 0 MTL
10:08MTL David Desharnais (1) ASST: Lars Eller (1) 3 - 0 MTL
10:36MTL Lars Eller (1) ASST: Alex Galchenyuk (6), Tomas Kaberle (1) 4 - 0 MTL
3rd Period
01:22MTL Rene Bourque (3) ASST: Tomas Plekanec (3) 5 - 0 MTL
03:01BUF SHG - Thomas Vanek (7) ASST: Marcus Foligno (4) 5 - 1 MTL
12:43MTL PPG - David Desharnais (2) ASST: Lars Eller (2), P.K. Subban (1) 6 - 1 MTL
Three Stars of the Game
Alex Galchenyuk
G: 0Shots: 3
A: 2Hits: 0
PTS: 2PIM: 0
+/-: 2TOI: 15:03
Rene Bourque
G: 2Shots: 5
A: 0Hits: 0
PTS: 2PIM: 0
+/-: 0TOI: 17:45
Carey Price
SA: 31TOI: 59:45
GA: 1EV: 22-22
PIM: 0PP: 5-5
SV%: .968SH: 3-4
Penalty Summary
1st Period
01:34BUF Tyler Ennis  Tripping against  Brendan Gallagher
02:40MTL David Desharnais  Holding against  Matt Ellis
07:12BUF Thomas Vanek  Hooking against  Rene Bourque
18:15BUF Marcus Foligno  Hooking against  Rene Bourque
2nd Period
02:27MTL Alexei Emelin  Tripping against  Thomas Vanek
06:35BUF Christian Ehrhoff  Hi-sticking against  Tomas Plekanec
07:43MTL P.K. Subban  Hooking against  Cody Hodgson
15:30MTL Lars Eller  Tripping against  John Scott
3rd Period
01:23BUF Steve Ott  Unsportsmanlike conduct
01:23BUF Steve Ott  Fighting (maj) against  Brandon Prust
01:23MTL Brandon Prust  Fighting (maj) against  Steve Ott
07:08BUF Jason Pominville  Interference on goalkeeper against  Carey Price
07:34BUF Jordan Leopold  Boarding against  David Desharnais
07:38MTL David Desharnais  Holding the stick against  Matt Ellis
08:32MTL Alex Galchenyuk  Too many men/ice - bench
11:24BUF John Scott  Roughing against  P.K. Subban
shots by period
Team Stats
Power Plays0/62/8
Faceoff Wins3037
Blocked Shots1210
Penalty Minutes2117
3J. LeopoldD00-31222:03
6M. WeberD00-12023:58
8C. McCormickC00-1008:55
9S. OttC0000713:15
10C. EhrhoffD0003226:17
19C. HodgsonC00-34016:28
21D. StaffordR00-13017:53
25M. GrigorenkoC00-13012:54
26T. VanekL1004217:20
29J. PominvilleR00-14220:32
32J. ScottL000025:23
37M. EllisL000309:02
44A. SekeraD000003:37
52A. SulzerD0012021:06
55J. HechtC00-20015:19
57T. MyersD00-30016:56
63T. EnnisC0000217:48
82M. FolignoL01-12216:13
1J. Enroth911.81820:00
30R. Miller1721.81040:00
8B. PrustL0011510:37
14T. PlekanecC0205020:15
17R. BourqueR2005017:45
20C. ArmstrongR0000011:18
21B. GiontaR0101016:06
22T. KaberleD010107:28
26J. GorgesD0000019:05
27A. GalchenyukC0223015:03
32T. MoenL0001011:07
51D. DesharnaisC2014418:07
55F. BouillonD0131014:30
61R. DiazD00-10018:04
72E. ColeL0013018:45
73B. GallagherR1023011:12
74A. EmelinD0020218:28
76P. SubbanD0111218:01
79A. MarkovD0010024:25
81L. EllerC1223217:59
31C. Price3031.96859:45