The effort was present, but a Buffalo Sabres win was not.
Even with the Sabres coming out of Wednesday night’s game against the Montréal Canadiens with a 2-1 shootout loss, the Sabres put together a strong effort, which showed especially early on.
“The foundation which we wanted to try and create was effort,” Sabres head coach Ted Nolan said following the loss. “Once you get the effort, you start executing on other things. That was one of the best [string of] periods we’ve put together in quite some time.”
The Sabres and Canadiens were deadlocked in a 0-0 tie through the first two periods of play until Canadiens forward P.A. Parenteau broke the tie just 19-seconds into the third period. Just under three minutes later, Sabres forward Drew Stafford converted on the powerplay to bring the game to a tie. It was the first goal the Sabres scored against the Canadiens in 179-minutes and 10-seconds, and the first since December 7th in Montréal.
Both teams continued to battle into overtime and right up until the shootout. In the shootout, Sabres captain Brian Gionta put Buffalo ahead first, but Canadiens forward Alex Galchenyuk quickly tied the shootout at one goal a piece. In the end, it was Parenteau who was able to put up the game-winning goal in the third round of shooters.
Sabres goaltender Michal Neuvirth was strong once again in the nets, as he stopped 31 shots on 32 shots faced. Neuvirth was very happy with the way his team played and responded in front of him throughout the night.
“I felt we played pretty good defensive hockey,” Neuvirth said. “They took it to us a little to us in the third period, but we answered right back. It was a great game from both sides. Last game we got a little lucky in the shootout, and today we weren’t.”
Drew Stafford was also pleased with his team’s play throughout the game, but feels like they could have been better.
“We felt as thought tonight we definitely had it. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to put the puck in the net,” Stafford said. “We felt the effort was there, and that’s all that really matters with this group. We’re not gonna beat teams with our skill. We’re not gonna beat teams with the 1-on-1 stuff. It’s gonna come down to execution and the will to compete. I felt as though it was there. Obviously it stinks not to get that extra point, but we’ll take what we can.”
Stafford finished the game with a goal, a hit, and three shots in 17:08 of total ice-time for the Sabres.
In Brian Gionta’s first game against his former team, he finished the night with one shot in 20:43 of total ice-time. Defenseman Josh Gorges also played his first game against his former team, finishing the game with three shots on goal in 25:29 of total ice-time.
Up next for the Sabres is the Edmonton Oilers in the team’s third home game of a four-game homestand on Friday night. Edmonton is currently struggling in the West, as they currently hold the last spot in the conference with nine points. The Oilers will play on Thursday night in Boston before coming to Buffalo on Friday.
Opening face-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday, and the game can be seen on MSG Network.