The Buffalo Sabres saw first-hand how lethal one of the top power plays in the National Hockey League can be.
The Montreal Canadiens scored two goals with the man advantage en route to a 3-1 victor over the Sabres at First Niagara Center on Wednesday. The Canadiens entered the game with the best road power play in the League and went 2-for-4 against Buffalo.
Alex Galchenyuk, David Desharnais and Brandon Gallagher scored for Montreal. Carey Price turned aside 24 shots to earn his 10th win of the season.
Matt Moulson tallied for Buffalo. Ryan Miller made 28 saves in goal.
The Sabres have been prone to take penalties late in close hockey games and Wednesday night proved to be another example of it.
“Whether it’s a good penalty, a bad penalty or the refs screwed up, we’re talking about it again,” Miller said. “Can’t do it.”
Sabres captain Steve Ott echoed the sentiment that the Sabres can’t be playing the same old song and doing the same old dance when it’s costing them games and points in the standings.
“It is the same theme and it’s simply not good enough. I’m not going to sugarcoat,” he said. “What’s going on here is nothing to be proud of by any means. If that’s the indication of a playoff game over there, for most of the game I thought we could play with them extremely well if not take it to them in aspects. But we found a way to lose. Good teams, confident teams find ways to battle in it and stick with a game. For us, we need to find that going forward and collectively.”
Down 2-1 with 2:38 to play in regulation, Sabres forward Tyler Ennis was called for interfering with Montreal forward Ryan White as Buffalo skated up the ice.
Just 1:14 later, Gallagher scored to ice the game.
“All I was trying to do was go to my spot on the set breakout. Both wingers are supposed to loop and I had no intention of picking him,” Ennis said. “Obviously the last thing I want to do is take a penalty with three minutes left. Very unfortunate. I feel terrible about it.”
The other Montreal power-play goal came with Marcus Foligno in the box for roughing with 6:16 to play in the second period when Descharnais deflected in a shot by P.K. Subban from the point.
“Obviously teams have good power plays and when they can step on your throats, they do it,” Moulson said.
The Ennis penalty in the third period was one of two minors the Sabres committed in the third period. Tyler Myers was called for boarding Gallagher with 8:43 left. Myers has been a physical presence of late and Nolan said he wants him to keep being aggressive.
“Even after that penalty, he came back and he was probably feeling badly about it. But I told him to keep aggressive as he has been and keep doing what he’s doing,” Nolan said. “I’ve been in this position before. When you’re at the bottom, you don’t get too many good calls. When you’re at the top, you start getting all the calls. We have a long ways to go before we start getting some good calls on our side.”
Moulson scored to make it a 2-1 game with 2:30 left in the second period. After Stafford knocked down Subban in the left wing corner, he dished the puck out to Moulson, who made no mistake and roofed it over Price.
The goal was Moulson’s first since he made his Sabres debut on Oct. 28. In 13 games with the Sabres, he has three goals and seven assists.
“I want to help this team win, that’s the thing. Obviously it wasn’t enough tonight and we have to come back and be able to produce to help this team win. So we’ll come back, practice hard tomorrow and get ready for the next two games.”
The Sabres had a four-minute power play midway through the period after Ott caught a high-stick in the face from Galchenyuk. The Sabres managed three of their four shots in the period on that man advantage but were unable to score.
The Canadiens took the lead with 2:39 remaining in the first on the rush at even strength. Despite a hard backchecking effort by Drew Stafford, Lars Eller was able to backhand a pass into the slot that an uncontested Markov ripped a shot that hit Galchenyuk and ended up past Miller.
Montreal added their first power-play goal with 6:16 remaining in the second period.
The Sabres held a closed door meeting after the game and Nolan said that the players holding that type of meeting says a lot to him.
“When things are difficult, it’s easy to point fingers, but this group is really starting to pay attention,” he said. “We’re making strides in the right direction. We want to get better and it showed tonight. The guys had their own little chit-chat in the room and it shows me that they’re starting to really care.”
The Sabres host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday and then travel to New Jersey to face the Devils on Saturday.