Sabres fans have had to witness a lot of disappointing performances inside First Niagara Center this season, but perhaps none were worse than this evening’s 5-1 trouncing at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens.
Goals, shots on net, power play opportunities, faceoffs, fights; no matter where the game turned, the Canadiens were a full stride ahead of the Sabres, delighting the hordes of Montreal faithful that traveled to Buffalo for the contest.
“Our effort was terrible,” said Steve Ott after the game. “It was definitely man-to-man, just completely not good enough […] There’s no excuse when the work ethic doesn’t show up.”
Montreal began their onslaught at 6:47 of a dominant first period. A turnover at the Habs blue line allowed Montreal to glide into the Sabres zone in an odd-man rush. Tomas Plekanec passed to Brian Gionta as Gionta drifted past the Buffalo net, backhanding the puck into the net over Ryan Miller who crossed and fell to his belly. The puck seemed to bounce off of Miller’s shoulder, and Rene Bourque managed to get a stick on it for Montreal’s first goal of the night.
After winning a battle behind the Buffalo net, Michael Ryder fired a shot that caromed off of Miller and landed at the side of the Buffalo net. Alex Galchenyuk crept in unopposed and poked the puck in for his 6th goal on the season.
They were just as explosive in the second. Not five minutes into the game David Desharnais fired the a shot from right circle that Brendan Gallagher managed to collect off of a rebound and pull around Miller to put Montreal up 3-0.
Montreal added their fourth while on a 5-on-3 power play. P.K. Subban launched a shot that took a fortunate bounce off of Andrei Markov and sailed over a sprawling Miller before landing cleanly in the back of the Sabres net. That goal eventually ended Miller’s night, who finished with 28 saves on 32 shots in just two periods.
“He played well,” said interim coach Ron Rolston, when asked if he pulled Miller to try and spark the team. “There was nothing he could do.”
Backup Jhonas Enroth took over for the third period, where the Sabres finally showed some sign of life. While on yet another penalty kill, Kevin Porter and Bryan Flynn initiated a 2-on-1 rush into the Montreal zone. Crisp passing between the two Rochester American callups allowed Flynn to hurl the puck past Montreal netminder Peter Budaj for his 5th goal on the season and Buffalo’s lone tally on the night.
It couldn’t keep the Sabres faithful in the seats for very long, who largely filed out with over five minutes left in the contest, leaving only the die-hards and pockets of Montreal fans to hear the final horn sound. Before that Montreal struck one final blow while on the power play as Subban scored his 11th of the year with a blistering slapshot that Enroth had no chance against.
By the end of the night the shot tally showed Montreal ahead 42-15 and with seven power play opportunities to Buffalo’s pair; two meager tastes of the Sabres’ futility during the contest.
“We didn’t play well; that was it,” said Rolston. “We had too many passengers tonight.”
Rolston intends to have the Sabres practice tomorrow morning and prepare to host the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday afternoon. Puck drop is scheduled for 3:00 P.M.