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Canadiens vs. Sabres game recap: A much needed win

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Max Pacioretty scores the OT winner for the second straight Saturday

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at Montreal Canadiens Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Max Pacioretty scored his team-record 10th overtime winning goal as the Montreal Canadiens came from behind to defeat the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 at the Bell Centre on Saturday night.

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Charlie Lindgren made 34 saves, plus a key poke check in overtime to bounce back after his first NHL loss on Thursday. The Canadiens have now won six of their last eight games and seven of their last 10.

In the opening minutes of the period, Alex Galchenyuk got behind two former teammates in Nathan Beaulieu and Josh Gorges but couldn’t beat Chad Johnson, who got the start as the Sabres played their second game in two nights.

A little bit later in the frame, Jordie Benn took exception to a hit by Josh Gorges on his former roommate Brendan Gallagher and it led to a surprisingly fiery fight.

The Canadiens were dominated pretty heavily in the first period as the Sabres used three power plays to open up a 17-7 edge in shots. The Canadiens did a good job of killing those off until the final seconds of the period. Lindgren was instrumental in a lot of that.

Four Montreal defenders collapsed down low, allowing Ryan O’Reilly to find a bit of free space to the left of Lindgren. The puck then found O’Reilly (and no one else knew where it was) and he had one of the easier goals he will score. There were only six seconds remaining in the period.

Normally allowing a goal that late in the period is a death knell for a team, but the second period was even as the Canadiens didn’t allow the game to get away from them.

The shots were 11-11 in the period and near the end of the frame, you could sense the game coming to Montreal a little bit as the Sabres were maybe feeling the effect of playing the night before.

In the final minute of the second period, Jack Eichel took a penalty for slashing that bled into the third period, and the Canadiens took advantage.

Jonathan Drouin took a shot from the point that was tipped by Andrew Shaw for his fourth goal of the season. Shaw in front of the net has been a huge difference maker on the power play, and he once again was rewarded.

The Canadiens would keep pushing after that goal as the two teams traded some chances back and forth but the game would go into overtime.

After the referees let some things go in the final minute of the third period, it looked like the Canadiens would be called for a penalty in overtime when Jonathan Drouin high sticked Marco Scandella but it was actually after a follow through and the call was corrected.

Pacioretty would then score his second straight Saturday night overtime winner seconds after Eichel had a chance at the other end.

After the goal Benoit Pouliot shoved Pacioretty, but nothing more came of it as Phillip Danault quickly rushed to his captain’s defence. Since the rest of the team was coming to celebrate the winner, Pouliot would have found himself greatly outnumbered and wisely skated back to the locker room.

Thoughts

  • Since the start of the season, you can pretty much get an idea of how things will be going for the Canadiens in a certain game right away. Against the Florida Panthers, the team overcame a quick goal to start the second period. They did the same against the Ottawa Senators. Tonight, they overcame a goal that would normally be a backbreaker with only six seconds left in the period. The Habs have still had their share of ugly losses (against Los Angeles and Minnesota since the end of the California trip) but a bit of resilience will go a long way as the team continues to string together wins.
  • This is a type of game the Canadiens need to win. They were slightly outplayed but kept themselves in it thanks to solid goaltending until they could get something past the other goaltender and get momentum back. Things aren’t always going to go your way from the opening face off. It’s how you respond to that.
  • Charlie Lindgren will cede his place to Carey Price soon enough but his contribution to this season should not be forgotten. He was exactly what the Canadiens needed at exactly the right time. And he’s giving them a chance to win every single night.
  • I’m not sure if it’s the team’s philosophy or not but it seems like the players are fixated with watching the puck as they defend. Normally this isn’t an issue, but when the team has the extra player, it becomes a problem. We saw it with O’Reilly’s goal on Saturday and Erik Haula’s goal in the Vegas game to make the score 3-2. They need to continue to be spatially aware of where the extra man is.