It was a game played in two separate halves this evening as the Canadiens held on to defeat the Buffalo Sabres.
In a game of lucky bounces, it seemed as though two different Buffalo squads showed up to play.
The Canadiens, who have been mired in a drought brought on by everything imaginable, from stomach flu to inner conflict, seem to be back on track with two straight wins against teams higher than them in the standings.
Buffalo, on the other hand, are struggling of late. They seemed to leave their emotional baggage in Buffalo after going all out to beat the Canucks the previous night. They were simply flat for about 25 minutes.
In the first period, the Canadiens dominated the tired Sabres, so much so, that if someone had slipped into a coma and not seen or heard of the Habs play since a December 19th, 5-2 win over Buffalo, they'd never know the Habs had plummeted to rock bottom in the interim.
They would not know how completely out of sync the team has been.
They would not know that the Habs had been shutout in back to back undoings.
They would not know that the Habs were seemingly in a coma themselves.
It tells that a day off after their last loss against Vancouver has served them well. Going back to the original lines for the most part, have not hurt either.
Guillaume Latendresse and Saku Koivu were both beneficiaries of lively bounces off the back boards to put the home team up by two. Francis Bouillon added another on a broken play in front of Sabres goalie Martin Biron to seemingly put the game out of reach.
Midway through the second, the Habs were cruising with a 3-0 lead, the Sabres caught a break of their own. Latendresse dove headlong to break up a pass, unintentionally taking out defenseman Mike Komisarek like a bowling pin. With Daniel Briere uncovered at the side, it was now a 3-1 game.
It was all the break the sabres needed.
Before the second was up Derek Roy made it 3-2 and a different game was underway. The officials missed an interference call on the play, as Huet's goal stick was hooked from him by Tomas Vanek, as he slid cross crease to attempt the save.
With the Sabres far from dead and the Canadiens tightening up, Buffalo gained the edge in scoring chances. The evened the game when a puck deflected off Briere's skate to fool Huet.
Ryder netted the game winner, streaking down the opposite wing and firing a shot that beat Biron low.
It was the Canadiens third win in 6 games against the Sabres this season, with a 3-1-2 record versus Buffalo.
The Sabres seem to have their hands full against Northeastern Division opponants, as the Maple Leafs and Senators have taken their share of points from Buffalo so far this season. While the team is known for their firepower, the powerplay is ranked 23rd in the league, and has been shut down by the Canadiens in 5 of 6 games so far.