There will be no regular season sweep this year, as the Buffalo Sabres fell short to the Montreal Canadiens 4-3 in the Shootout this evening insider First Niagara Center. Buffalo entered the night 3-0 against the Habs on the season, and 6-0 in their last six regular season meetings.
The loss was Buffalo’s fourth in a row, and has dropped them to dead last in the Eastern Conference. The Carolina Hurricanes won tonight in a Shootout over the San Jose Sharks, lifting them to 55 points and past the Sabres, whom they hold a tie-breaker over due to the two wins they’ve accumulated against Buffalo.
“I’m obviously disappointed, embarrassed,” head coach Lindy Ruff lamented in his post-game press conference, “To be where we’re is a big disappointment.”
It was the Sabres who reached the scoreboard first. Just 4:16 in the opening period saw Robyn Regehr throw a shot from beyond the right circle and into the Montreal net behind Carey Price. The goal was Regehr’s first as a Buffalo Sabre and his first NHL goal since March 1st of last year.
Montreal eventually matched the score just one second after Buffalo killed off its first penalty of the night. Tomas Kaberle snuck towards the Buffalo net unopposed as he received a pass from Yannick Weber before thrusting the puck past a pivoting Ryan Miller.
Buffalo once more took the lead at 15:43 when consistent pressure in the Montreal zone led to players from both teams scrambling for the puck. It bounced away from a crowd for just a moment, and Tyler Myers moved in alone to blast the puck into the Montreal net, notching his 100th career NHL point in what was his 200th NHL game.
And once more, Buffalo’s lead did not last. While on their second power play of the evening, Scott Gomez, who previously went over a full calendar year without scoring an NHL goal, wired a wrist shot over Miller’s shoulder into the roof of the Buffalo net. Gomez’s second goal this season came with just .6 remaining in Buffalo’s penalty and 14 seconds left in the period.
The second period was one to forget for the Sabres, who found themselves down on the scoreboards for the first time in the game at 11:28. Montreal had a man screening Miller as Chris Campoli fired a shot into the top of the Buffalo net to put the Canadiens ahead by one. The goal was especially tough for Buffalo to take as it was only one of four shots that Montreal managed throughout the entire second period.
Montreal continued on a drought of scoring chances, at one point having just a single shot on goal through 12 minutes in the third period. Buffalo took advantage and finally beat Price for a third time at 11:55. Ville Leino fought for the puck in the corner and tossed a spinning backhand pass to Tyler Ennis, who sat all alone a few feet from the Montreal crease. A quick snapshot from the 22 year-old gave him his 5th goal of the season and Buffalo the tying score.
The Sabres had a great opportunity to put it away when they were awarded a power play with less than 59 seconds left in the overtime period, but couldn’t connect on a fourth goal before time expired.
They would live to regret it, as Montreal managed to score twice in the Shootout and skate off the ice with two points. While Buffalo’s first two shooters, Brad Boyes and Jason Pominville, were stoned by Price, Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais both beat Miller and secured the win for Montreal.
It was especially disappointing for several thousand Sabres fans who finally had the chance to watch their team after 15 games went unaired due to contract disputes between Time Warner Cable and MSG. Both sides came to an agreement earlier in the day and worked swiftly to make sure the game could be shown across Western New York, only to display a contest that the Sabres came up short in despite controlling most of the game.
The Sabres’ task will get no easier as they welcome the Pittsburgh Penguins to First Niagara Center this Sunday for a 12:30 PM faceoff as part of Hockey Day in America, which will be broadcast nationwide on NBC.