The Buffalo Sabres were unable to successfully play the role of spoiler in 7-4 loss to the Montreal Canadiens Saturday night at the Bell Centre. The Canadiens picked up a valuable two points in their continued playoff push, while the Sabres’ season continues to dwindle to a disappointing end.
Max Domi’s 26th goal of the season, coming on the power-play, proved to be the final dagger for the Sabres in this game. An unfortunate holding call was allotted to Zemgus Girgensons 14:26 into the third period, which led to Domi’s goal and put the game out of reach.
It was noted prior to the game that this matchup would be an important test and measuring stick for the Sabres, especially their young players. There were both successes and failures, with the second period proving to be a fertile testing ground.
The Sabres entered the second frame with a 1-0 lead, courtesy of Sam Reinhart’s 19th goal of the season in the first. The Canadiens, however, began to dominate the game after a lackluster first period in front of their home fans.
Brendan Gallagher scored his 32nd goal of the year 9:12 into the second period giving the Habs their first lead of the game. Rasmus Dahlin’s youthful experience was put on full display as he dodged a hit along the boards, leaving the puck free to the opponent. Phillip Danault recouped the puck and fed a pass to Gallagher who was wide open.
Dahlin will likely ‘take a hit to make a play’ next time.
The Habs kept things rolling generating their first two-goal lead of the game as Andrew Shaw scored his 18th of the season. Again, another youthful mistake led to the goal. Casey Mittelstadt was beaten cleanly on the half-boards by Domi in the Montreal defensive zone. Domi skated unmolested all the way down into the Sabres end, feeding Shaw with a pass.
Buffalo trailed 3-1.
Despite the mistakes on the big stage, the Sabres showcased some resiliency. Alexander Nylander scored on the power-play cutting the Habs lead to 3-2. Nylander, a pleasant surprise since being recalled from Rochester, now has four points in his last three games. He also skated most of the night on the top-line with Jack Eichel and Conner Sheary.
The Sabres continued to storm back and tied the game at three when Marco Scandella received a drop-pass from Johan Larsson in the slot and rifled a wrist shot past Price short side.
The euphoria of tying the game was short-lived as former Sabre Paul Byron tallied his 14th goal of the season, again off a brutal mistake. Reinhart got caught in a vulnerable position at the top of the offensive zone and turned the puck over, leading to a Canadiens odd-man rush and another one-goal lead.
The Sabres had their chances in the third period, especially with a four-minute power-play, but were unable to withstand another two-goal deficit after Gallagher scored his second of the game – his 33rd of the season.
Aside from Nylander’s performance, another positive to take from the game is Jack Eichel’s goal. His 26th goal of the year marks a new career high in that regard. That goal also serves to buffer a career-high in points as well, as he currently sits at 75.
With a win, Montreal jumped into the second and final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. They boast a record of 40-28-7 good enough for 87 points with seven games remaining.
On the other side of the spectrum, the Sabres fall to 31-34-9 on the season. They’ve won only one game out of their last 10.
Their road trip continues with both stops in New Jersey and Ottawa. Puck drop against the Devils is slated for 7 p.m. on Monday.