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Canadiens @ Sabres game recap: Three leads not enough as Habs fall in Buffalo

Montreal could not hold on in a disappointing performance in Buffalo.

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at Buffalo Sabres Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

The Montreal Canadiens held three one-goal leads on Thursday night against the Buffalo Sabres, but the last lead was held by their opponent as time expired at KeyBank Center in a 4-3 loss.

Kyle Okposo scored a power play goal from the point with 1:01 remaining in the third period to hand the Canadiens their second regulation loss of the season.

The power play goal came after a questionable tripping call on Joel Armia just 18 seconds earlier.

Montreal would try to equal the score in the final minute of play, but they could not get a puck past Buffalo goaltender Carter Hutton.

NaturalStatTrick.com

The Canadiens were vastly outplayed for most of the night despite the score being in their favour or tied for most of the game. If it wasn’t for Antti Niemi making 38 saves, it would have been decided well before the final minute.

It wasn’t all bad for Montreal, however. Max Domi opened the scoring for the Canadiens with his first of two goals on the night. Domi used a great zone entry, finding open space in the middle and firing one past Hutton, who made 19 saves in the victory.

The Canadiens and Sabres would both get chances throughout the period, but Montreal would hold on to the lead after one period despite being outshot 13-9. The Canadiens had the only power play of the period.

The second period was more of the same with Niemi forced to make several saves early in the period as the line of Andrew Shaw, Matthew Peca and Nicolas Deslauriers was hemmed in the zone.

The Sabres had another chance when Conor Sheary broke in on Niemi, but a great stick play by Jordie Benn kept the forward from even getting a shot.

The best chance for the Canadiens in the first half of the second period came from the combination of Phillip Danault and Tomas Tatar but Hutton made the save.

The Sabres would tie the game up with 8:48 remaining in the period when Noah Juulsen, who has been great all year for the Canadiens, got caught by Jeff Skinner and led to a two-on-one. Skinner found Jason Pominville, who had two cracks at the net, and scored on the second.

Brendan Gallagher would leave the game shortly after blocking a shot with his hand, but thankfully would return before the end of the period.

Montreal would get the lead back a few minutes later. Jesperi Kotkaniemi would win a race for the puck after a lob pass from Xavier Ouellet and get it to Joel Armia who put it in the net.

The lead was short lived as after a penalty to Andrew Shaw, Jason Pominville would get pushed into Niemi, find the loose puck and put it in the net just 1:34 after Armia’s goal.

The play was challenged by the Canadiens for goaltender interference, but it was ruled a good goal.

The Sabres had a great chance to take their first lead of the game with just under 16 minutes remaining in the third period. Niemi made a great save on Jack Eichel and a second effort from Pominville hit the goal post in his bid for a hat trick.

Niemi made another big save a couple of minutes later.

The Canadiens would take their third lead of the game 6:34 into the third period when Domi scored a goal similar to his first, where he broke into the zone and fired the shot past Hutton.

Sam Reinhart would tie the game with just under seven minutes remaining after a defensive breakdown in the Habs end left him alone in front of Niemi for his first goal of the season.

Thoughts

  • Antti Niemi was great in this game and deserved a better fate. He was one of the best players on the team and his teammates for the most part left him out to dry.
  • Max Domi is quickly becoming not only the best centre on the Canadiens, but a really dangerous player. He has playmaking ability, but his ability to make offence off the rush even when the team around him is struggling is a huge asset. He has a really good shot and the more he uses it, the more dangerous he becomes.
  • Something has to change on the fourth line. Between Andrew Shaw’s penalties, and just an overall lack of success, the Canadiens are no longer a four-line team and it puts them at a significant disadvantage. The Sabres line of Patrik Berglund, Zemgus Girgensons and Johan Larsson dominated the Shaw-Matthew Peca-Nicolas Deslauriers line. This was a battle the Habs fourth line was winning earlier in the season. This combination is clearly not working.
  • Noah Juulsen was caught for a goal, but what’s notable is that this is the first time you can really say this all season. For a player in his first full NHL season, he has had a great start to the year.
  • Jesperi Kotkaniemi played his ninth game in Buffalo. He will be getting a 10th game on Saturday. I would be shocked to see anything otherwise.