MONTREAL – The Buffalo Sabres have been a fragile team for most of the season, so perhaps Tuesday night could be a turning point in that regard.
Steve Ott's second goal of the game came on a power play in overtime to give the Buffalo Sabres a desperately needed 3-2 win against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday.
The Sabres had jumped out to a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes but then went into a total shell, getting outshot 26-5 from the start of the second to the 17:29 mark of the third period and allowing the Canadiens to come back to tie it. Were it not for goaltender Jhonas Enroth, the Sabres definitely would not have even made it to overtime.
Interim Sabres coach Ron Rolston saw his team's play over the final 40 minutes of regulation as indicative of the nightmarish season it has gone through. But with the end result being positive he hopes this is the start of a turnaround.
"I think what you saw in the latter part of the game is kind of where we're at right now," said Rolston, who saw his team improve to 5-5-3 since he took over from Lindy Ruff on Feb. 20. "We had a two-goal lead, we played well, and then the confidence of our team – especially when they got their first one – we faltered a little bit there. I was happy that we caught ourselves, but that's where we're at right now as a team. I liked the fact that we're building our resilient nature, but we also have to build the confidence in those games to be able to finish them off. That's another step."
Tyler Ennis also scored and Enroth made 32 saves, including 24 in the second and third periods to allow the Sabres (11-15-4) to earn just their second win in eight games (2-3-3).
"This was a real tough game for me, a lot of movement in the crease; I'm pretty tired right now," Enroth said. "But I think the guys did a very good job blocking shots, clearing rebounds and jumping on pucks."
Max Pacioretty and Colby Armstrong scored third-period goals to get the Canadiens (19-5-5) to overtime, snapping a five-game winning streak but earning a point for the 17th time in their past 18 games (13-1-4).
With just two seconds remaining in P.K. Subban's penalty for high-sticking, Jordan Leopold took a shot from the left circle that Carey Price stopped with his pad. But the rebound bounced right to Ott, who fired it home for the win.
Subban's penalty came when he tried to lay a big hit on Sabres defenseman Mark Pysyk at the Canadiens blue line but got his stick up. Subban had been on the ice for 2:06 of the final 2:44 of regulation and was sent right back out to start overtime before being called for the penalty 17 seconds into the extra period.
Coach Michel Therrien was not impressed with his young defenseman in that instance.
"It was a bad penalty," Therrien said. "Especially with the effort the guys had in the second and third periods. But we'll take care of that and make sure it doesn't happen again."
The Sabres lost forward Thomas Vanek in the second period after he was hit with a Christian Ehrhoff slap shot during a Buffalo power play. Vanek was hunched over on the bench in pain after he was hit with the shot and went to the dressing room at the next whistle. He did not return with what the team called an upper-body injury, but Rolston later said it was in fact a lower-body injury.
"We'll have to go day to day, he's limping around a little bit," Rolston said. "He just got hit with that shot so it will probably be a day to day and pain tolerance thing."
Down 2-0 after the first period, the Canadiens completely dominated the second and the third, outshooting the Sabres 26-8 over the final 40 minutes of regulation.
"I think they stepped it up a notch and we got caught on long shifts," Rolston said. "That hurt us in terms of getting fresh guys out on the ice."