BUFFALO - When two teams square off three times in less than a month, they’re bound to develop a serious dislike for one another. It’s almost inevitable.
On Wednesday night, the Canadiens and Sabres displayed that mutual distaste by engaging in a rough-and-tumble affair at the First Niagara Center that included a seemingly endless parade to the penalty box during the middle frame.
Fifty-two minutes in penalties were handed out over the course of the second period alone, including multiple misconducts on both sides.
Fortunately, Michel Therrien’s troops found a way to use the emotional nature of the tilt to their advantage and come away with a 3-2 overtime victory that snapped a two-game losing streak.
“I’m proud of our team. We played with a lot of character today. Everybody battled. Sometimes, you’re involved in very physical games. It’s good for our team to play games like that,” said Paul Byron, who scored the game-winning goal at the 3:15 mark of overtime. “When you play a team five times a year or two to three times in the same month, there will naturally be some animosity. The Sabres are a big team and they play hard. I like physical games like these. They’re fun to play.”
That’s exactly the way defenseman Greg Pateryn felt in the aftermath of the Canadiens’ 71st game of the season, which came 24 hours after dropping a 4-1 decision to the Florida Panthers on home ice. The defeat didn’t sit well with Pateryn & Co., who were eager to get after a Sabres squad that certainly doesn’t shy away from trying to intimidate the opposition.
“I think everyone knew after last game that we needed to come back strong and respond with a good team victory. I think that’s what we did. That’s really the group of guys that we have,” said Pateryn, who scored his first career NHL goal on Wednesday night, blasting a slap shot that found its way through Sabres netminder Robin Lehner early in the second period. “I really like playing those types of games. It kind of shows everyone’s attitude and character. It was a good win.”
Based on the way things played out when the two clubs last met on Mar. 10 in Montreal, it’s safe to say both groups knew exactly what was coming. Pateryn and Mike Brown both dropped the gloves last week, and goaltender Ben Scrivens nearly did the same in their latest meeting, almost going toe-to-toe with Lehner on the opposite end of the ice.
“We know each other going back a while. We were rookies in the AHL together and made our way up. We’ve got some history. We consider ourselves friends, but friends off the ice is not the same as teammates on the ice,” said Scrivens, who made 41 saves on Wednesday night to register his fifth win of the year. “I was prepared to go down. I don’t want to predict how well I would have done. He’s a big boy. I think he’s maybe a little wilder than I am.”
That being said, Scrivens appreciated the physical nature of the game in front of him, which earned the Canadiens another two points in their quest to remain in the Eastern Conference’s wild card chase.
“Every game is its own entity. You’re just trying to play as best you can and try to come out with a win. Sometimes, they’re rough. Sometimes, you play games where there are one or two penalties all game. You have to find ways to win different types of games,” explained Scrivens. “We’re fortunate to come out with a win tonight by winning it in overtime. If we play our next game with no penalties, we’ll have to find a way to win that one, too.”
With a game against the rival Ottawa Senators on the horizon on Saturday night, though, it could very well be another game just like this one. That suits the Canadiens just fine.
“I think sometimes all it really takes is one hit, something to start that. Then, guys start pushing back. It’s just about responding,” said Pateryn. “I think it’s just about standing up for your teammates. That shows our character in here.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com
The Numbers Game: March 16, 2016
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