|Drew Stafford deposits Roman Hamrlik into the Sabres bench (photo: Bill Wippert) |
When it rains for the Buffalo Sabres, it pours.
Suffering through a Sahara-like offensive drought the last five games, the Sabres forwards exploded for three first period goals, and ultimately, a 4-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens in front of a capacity crowd in HSBC Arena on Friday night.
Buffalo accomplished two very important things in their second match-up with the Canadiens. They scored first and sustained a lead.
Entering Friday, Buffalo had allowed the first goal in 14 straight contests, three shy of the NHL record. When Clarke MacArthur batted Derek Roy
's rebound just inside the left post at 7:59 of the first period, it was the team's first lead in their last 495:33 minutes of play.
"It's a different game," said Roy concerning playing with the lead as compared to trailing. "When you're up by a goal it seems like the other team needs to open up and get some momentum their way.
"Tonight we played smart. We were chipping the puck in, weren't playing fancy at the blueline and we weren't making that little play in the middle. We were playing as a team."
The team last took a lead at 11:12 of the third period in a 4-2 win over Florida on Oct. 26 or eight games ago.
"It was strange," joke head coach Lindy Ruff of scoring first. "You've got to tone your style down when you've got a lead. You can't give the other team life or opportunity."
Think the first goal isn't important? This season throughout the NHL, the team that scores first wins 73.8 percent of the time. Buffalo is 2-2.
"I didn't ever I was ever going to hear Neal Diamond sing again," joked Ruff referring the team's tradition of playing one of Diamond's tunes when winning.
Nolan Pratt was signed to help strengthen the Sabres in their own end and in front of the net. But since returning from a four-game hiatus due to a groin injury, the 11-year veteran has shown an offensive flair.
Pratt recorded his second point in as many games when his shot was redirected by Daniel Paille past Cristobal Huet at 12:19 of the first. The defenseman recorded his first point of the season with the primary assist on Jochen Hecht
's goal in the first period against Ottawa on Thursday night.
"He's a battler. He's a guy that has some size and he has some reach," said Ruff. "He's kind of a brawler down low. And he's turned into an offensive player too ... which scares me."
In 81 games for the Tampa Bay Lightning last season, Pratt registered just a goal and eight points.
had one of those hits that will live in highlight reels for the remainder of the season. Connecting with Roman Hamrlik next to Buffalo's bench midway through the second period, Stafford nearly deposited the six-foot-two, 215-pound defenseman onto Clarke MacArthur's lap.
When asked, MacArthur said only one thing went through his mind: "Get out of the way."
Prior to MacArthur's heroics on Friday night, Stafford was the last Sabres rookie to score a pair of goals in a game. Stafford accomplished the feat twice during the 2006-07 season: Mar. 9 versus Minnesota and Mar. 21 versus Washington.