Looking to snap an eight-game losing streak, the Buffalo Sabres faced my hometown Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre. And they snapped it with authority with a 7-2 win over the Habs.
The Sabres needed their big guns to show up and they certainly did. The Thompson-Skinner-Tuch line was dominant all night. Skinner had two goals and three assists, Thompson had a goal and three assists and Tuch had a goal and two assists. Rasmus Dahlin chipped in a goal and two assist too.
Before the game even started, the Sabres had some good news to report on the injury front. Defenseman Mattias Samuelsson was finally back in the lineup after missing the last 13 games. Zemgus Girgensons also returned. This was also Tyson Jost’s first game as a Sabres. Jost was claimed off waivers late last week.
What a start!!
You really can’t get a much better start to a game than the Buffalo Sabres got tonight against the Montreal Canadiens. Less than three minutes in, the Sabres were up 3-0!
They got things rolling quickly just 35 seconds into the game. Jeff Skinner took a hit just inside the Canadiens blueline but managed to get the puck across to Tage Thompson, who spun and fed Rasmus Dahlin cruising through the slot. Dahlin rifled a wrister over Habs goalie Jake Allen for his 8th of the season.
Just 17 seconds later, JJ Peterka capitalized on some hard work from Dylan Cozens and jammed home his 4th of the season at 0:52.
With the Sabres on the powerplay, Alex Tuch made it 3-0 for the visitors with his 10th of the season. Skinner gained control of the puck, gave it to Dahlin, who fed Tuch for the wrister past Allen. I’ve got to say that Allen did not look good early on. So, at 2:13, the Sabres were up 3-0.
At that point, the shots were 5-0 for the Sabres. Then the tides changed. The Canadiens Cole Caufield scored on a one-timer from above the circle to the right of Craig Anderson. Good hard shot, but one that I thought Anderson would like to have back. But upon looking at the replay, I see the puck deflected off Casey Mittelstadt’s stick.
From there, it was almost all Montreal for the rest of the period thanks to three consecutive penalties to the Sabres. The Habs couldn’t score, but controlled the play and took a lot of shots on Anderson.
At the end of the first, the Sabres felt lucky to be up 3-1 after getting dominated for most of the period. Shots ended up 15-9 in favor of Montreal.
Trading PP goals
Another good start to the period with some solid pressure from the Thompson line, but they couldn’t put it past Allen.
Then, they gave the momentum back to Montreal with another penalty; at that point, their fourth in a row. But the PK was good, and the Sabres held their lead.
Midway through the second frame, Buffalo extended the lead on a beautiful toe drag from Tuch, picked up by Thompson who found the trailer in Jeff Skinner, who put the Sabres up 4-1 at 11:21. Nice play all around on that goal; Owen Power won’t get a point on it but his long pass to Tuch through centre ice made that goal happen.
The Habs cut the lead to 4-2 on a goal from Sean Monahan, who picked up his won rebound on a shot from inside the blueline. That one, I’m sure, Anderson wants back. Bad rebound control on that one.
Shots in the period favored Buffalo 14-8 and were even at 23 after 40 minutes.
Putting it away in the third
Once again, the Sabres came out strong. At 3:48, Thompson carried the puck in, made a nifty toe-drag move to pass it to Tuch, Tuch carried behind the net and then found Henri Jokiharju who put it past a fallen Allen. 5-2 Buffalo.
A couple of minutes later at 6:39, Thompson ripped it past Allen, high glove side, under the crossbar… ‘where momma hides the cookies.” It gets overshadowed by Tage’s shot, but that was quite the pass from Jeff Skinner! Sabres make it 6-2.
They weren’t quite done yet, either. Jeff Skinner ripped a one-timer past Allen on the short side on the powerplay at 14:26. We don’t often see Skinner shoot on the PP, but he was certainly feeling it tonight against Montreal. Dahlin and Cozens with the assists on that one.
Shots in the 3rd period were 15-8 Buffalo in the third and 38-31 for the game.
In my comments the other night after the Leafs game, I complained that Jeff Skinner wasn’t being a pest in the last several games. Well, the pest showed up tonight. To go along with his five-point night, Skinner got into a scrap with Jake Evans and was even chirping the Habs bench after he scored to make it 7-2. The Sabres need that to continue.
The return of Mattias Samuelsson was a huge factor in their own zone. The Sabres, who had been struggling killing penalties, were 6-for-6 tonight against the Habs. Samuelsson seems to have a calming effect when he’s on the ice, and his presence allows the D pairings to be much more balanced.
Even the defensive ice times were more balanced tonight. While we’ve seen Dahlin and Power each getting over 25 minutes of ice time in recent games, tonight the top four of Dahlin, Power, Samuelsson and Jokiharju were all around 20 minutes. In fact, Jokiharju had the most at 22:01.
In limited play on the 4th line, I liked what I saw from Tyson Jost. His first shift as a Sabres featured a fight! I liked the energy he showed tonight.
The Sabres are right back on the ice tomorrow night at home against the St Louis Blues. It’s black-and-red goathead night, so I’ll be wearing my #39 Hasek jersey.