MONTREAL – Sometimes the only thing missing is a little bit of luck.
After seeing Buffalo come out to an early two-goal lead on Tuesday night, the Canadiens vowed to get a better start against the Sabres in the re-match four days later. They wasted little time making good on that promise.
Despite exploding out of the gate and outshooting Buffalo by a 13-5 margin in the first period alone, the Habs ended up being handed their first loss in regulation since March 5, dropping to 1-1-2 against the Sabres this season.
“They’ve had two really good performances by their goaltenders. Tonight, Ryan [Miller] really stole them one and last game, [Jhonas] Enroth played very well,” explained Carey Price, who stopped 16 of the 18 shots he faced on Saturday night. “We had a lot of opportunities but the puck was just out of reach. You have to take the positives out of it: we maintained puck possession for the majority of that game, our puck pursuit was excellent and we had a lot of offensive zone play.”
In familiar territory heading into the final frame down two goals to the Sabres, the Canadiens were looking for some of the same third period magic that saw them rally back to force overtime on Tuesday night. Michael Ryder deflected home his 10th of the campaign on the power play to give the Habs hope, but Miller shut the door for the final 12 minutes of the night.
Finding the back of the net hasn’t been an issue for the Habs in general this season, sitting fifth in the league with an average of 3.10 goals per game. But in the past two games against Buffalo, the Canadiens have managed to score just three goals on 73 shots, not including the additional 93 that were either blocked or missed the net.
“You know you’re doing the right things [when you’re getting chances],” mentioned Brian Gionta, who is currently second on the team behind Tomas Plekanec with 10 goals. “A couple of breakdowns, a couple mishaps and it ends up in our net.
“We had a lot of chances; we created a lot on our forecheck, we created a lot down low, but they got a 5-on-3 goal then a late one in the second that changed the momentum,” added the Habs captain. “Going into the third down two instead of down one hurt us.”
After being saddled with their second regulation loss of the month, the Canadiens failed to pick up at least one point for just the sixth time this season. While there’s no such thing as a “good” loss, Gionta was happy with the performance the Habs put on against the Sabres.
“You never accept losing, but our effort and intent were there,” he offered. “It’s a tough league and you have to find ways to win. It’s not always going to go your way and you have to battle through some things. Tonight we just weren’t able to overcome them.”
Having watched his team bounce back and respond exactly as he had hoped following Tuesday’s overtime loss to the Sabres, Michel Therrien admitted Saturday’s loss boiled down to one basic principle: you can’t win ‘em all.
“I thought we played a solid game. We dictated the game, we skated hard, guys were ready to play and I liked our intensity,” praised the Habs head coach. “We were competing hard to the net and competing hard for loose pucks.
“We wanted to make sure we played a solid game from start to finish and that’s what we did. That’s what you ask from your team, but the result just wasn’t on our side tonight.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
Words from the room
The Numbers Game - March 23, 2013
From start to finish