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Sabres come up short in overtime loss to Canadiens

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

MONTREAL - For the second time this season, Nathan Beaulieu and the Buffalo Sabres thought they played well enough to win against the Montreal Canadiens but only came away with one point to show for it. 

A non-call and a broken stick for Beaulieu preceded a breakaway chance for Max Pacioretty in overtime, and the captain of the Canadiens converted to clinch a 2-1 win for Montreal at Bell Centre on Saturday night.

Sabres coach Phil Housley was left feeling pleased with the way his team played the game, but disappointed with the result.

"I can't fault the effort of our guys," Housley said. "We outshot them, we out chanced them. We had a penalty called back, which was pretty odd that we're calling penalties back now. It was unfortunate because I thought the guys played real hard."

Video: BUF Recap: O'Reilly scores in overtime loss to Habs

The Sabres appeared to have earned a power play in overtime on an apparent high-sticking call against Montreal forward Jonathan Drouin, only to find out that the officials had ruled that there was no penalty after huddling at center ice.

Housley said that the officials ruled that Drouin was following through on his shot at the time of the high stick.

"I disagree because you're in control of your own stick," Housley said. "To me it was a penalty but it wasn't called."

Beaulieu had his stick break at the Montreal blue line shortly after, allowing the Canadiens to take off on a rush. Ryan O'Reilly tried to regain possession in a battle along the boards but lost the puck to Phillip Danault, who fed Pacioretty with a clear lane to the net. 

Knowing Pacioretty's tendency to shoot between the pads, Sabres goalie Chad Johnson looked to protect the five-hole. Instead, Pacioretty tucked a the puck between the post and Johnson's outstretched leg.

"Possession in overtime, it was literally everything," Beaulieu said of his broken stick. "It couldn't have happened at a worse time for my stick to snap. It's really unfortunate. Guys were really good tonight. We put up a gutsy effort and thought we deserved to win, but what can you say? It's just really unfortunate."

O'Reilly took responsibility for the play as well, saying he wished he had found an outlet to maintain possession.

"Just skilled players making good plays," O'Reilly said. "I should've at least threw it back to our goalie or did something to make sure they don't get possession. We have a broken stick, so that's my fault there."

Just as they had in their loss to the Florida Panthers on Friday, the Sabres took a 1-0 lead in the first period on the strength of a power-play goal. A shot that went wide during a scramble in front of the net found O'Reilly behind the goal, and he was able to quietly wrap around and lift the puck in.

Video: BUF@MTL: O'Reilly cleans up rebound for PPG

But unlike in their loss to Florida, the Sabres felt good about the way they played in the second and third periods as well. They outshot the Canadiens 35-29 on the night, and Housley felt they had several chances to extend their one-goal lead. They simply were never able to convert.

Montreal needed just one goal to force overtime, which game on a deflection in front of the net from Andrew Shaw on a power play 1:03 into the third period. 

"I think tonight was a start," Housley said. "We got pucks to the net, we were really gritty and dirty in front of the net. If we continue to do that we're going to break that one goal [barrier]. 

"We had opportunities to make it two, we had a 2-on-1. We had opportunities to score. But the thing that was intriguing to me was that guys were willing to pay a price in front of the net and getting second opportunities. If we continue to do that, then we're going to score more goals. But you have to do it on a consistent basis."

Johnson was strong during a 27-save performance in net, which included multiple stops on breakaways. One such save was made on Paul Byron on the very next shift after Shaw had scored to tie the game.

Video: BUF@MTL: Johnson uses glove to rob Byron on breakaway

"Chad was excellent," Housley said. "We don't get any points if he doesn't make that save. You can't fault our goaltending. They've been giving us a chance to win. Hopefully we can give them some run support as we move forward."


Beaulieu's homecoming

The game marked Beaulieu's first time back to Montreal since being acquired by the Sabres during the offseason. Beaulieu played 225 games over parts of six seasons with the Canadiens, who drafted him with a first-round pick in 2011.

Beaulieu was greeted with boos from the Montreal crowd.

"I heard them," he said. "It was weird, just like playing them the first time [in Buffalo on opening night], it was different being on the other side of the bench. I felt weird the first couple of periods. I thought I calmed down in the third. Like I said the first time we played, I'm just happy the first one's over with."


Gorges returns

Josh Gorges returned from a nine-game absence stemming from a lower-body injury, and he made sure early that his presence was felt in a big way. Gorges laid out former teammate Brendan Gallagher with an open-ice hit late in the first period and then dropped the gloves with Jordie Benn.

"It helps our team," Housley said. "He brought a lot of energy tonight. He really lifted our bench at that moment, stepping up for us, and it's great to see. He's a character guy."

In total, Gorges tallied three hits in 15:56. 


O'Reilly, again

With his power-play goal in the second period, O'Reilly now has 12 points (6+6) in his last 12 games. His four power-play goals lead the team. 

The Sabres have also now scored power-play goals in back-to-back games for the first time this season, with Kyle Okposo having scored with the extra man against Florida on Friday.


Up next

The Sabres will return to action on Tuesday when they meet the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with GMC Gamenight on MSG-B, or you can listen live on WGR 550. The puck drops at 7 p.m.

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