The Montreal Canadiens fought back from four separate deficits, and even held the lead at one point, but Rasmus Ristolainen’s overtime winner gave the Buffalo Sabres one last lead they couldn’t surrender. It was a disappointing finish to a 6-5 loss at the Bell Centre on Thursday night.
A wild first period saw six goals scored in the opening 20 minutes with the Canadiens answering every time the Sabres took the lead.
The Canadiens had just over a minute of 5-on-3 time early in the period, but the Sabres scored first when Vladimir Sobotka finished off a two-on-one on a pass from Evan Rodrigues.
Montreal responded 3:06 later when Max Domi continued his stellar play with his first of three assists on the night when he threaded a needle to Jonathan Drouin who beat Linus Ullmark.
Sobotka scored his second goal of the period to give Buffalo a 2-1 lead 14:40 into the period. The goal was challenged by Claude Julien as it appeared that Nathan Beaulieu impeded Carey Price’s pad. The call on the ice stood, but Montreal answered back quickly.
Just 10 seconds later, Matthew Peca scored his first goal as a Canadien when he banked one past Ullmark to quickly make everyone forget about the controversial goal.
Just 1:02 after Peca’s goal, Conor Sheary gave the Sabres their third lead of the period. Sheary drove to the net and made no mistake with the Casey Mittelstadt pass from behind the net.
The lead lasted 34 seconds this time when Domi took a shot from the top of the zone that squeaked by Ullmark. Andrew Shaw pounced on the loose puck and made sure it crossed the line.
In the second period, the Sabres took their fourth straight lead. Price lost sight of the puck after it hit the post and Jeff Skinner fired it in the open side of the net to make it 4-3 5:34 into the middle frame.
Less than five minutes later, Domi had his third assist of the night and his second highlight reel assist when he made a perfect saucer pass to Tomas Tatar.
The fourth line had their best game in a while for the Canadiens and it continued into special teams when Nicolas Deslauriers gave the Canadiens their first lead of the game. He broke in shorthanded and fire a shot past Ullmark with less than two minutes remaining in the third period.
But, as was the theme of the night, that lead was short lived as well. Montreal held the lead over the intermission, but less than three minutes into the third period, the Sabres equalized.
Off a set play on a faceoff, Jack Eichel pushed the puck past Phillip Danault. Two Canadiens went towards him leaving Skinner all alone in front of the net for his second goal of the night to tie it up at 5-5.
The teams traded chances and power plays, but the game went to overtime. Artturi Lehkonen had a chance to win it for Montreal, but his shot on a three-on-one missed the net and go around the boards to Ristolainen who was alone on Price and fired a slap shot past the Canadiens goaltender.
- Andrew Shaw looked reinvigorated on the line with Drouin and Domi. I wasn’t sure how that move would work out, but it worked. And Charles Hudon helped the fourth line have their best game in a while as well. With the news that Joel Armia and Paul Byron will be out longer than just a few games, the Canadiens will need all players to contribute.
- Carey Price was not great, but the bigger issue is the defensive zone coverage. The Sabres were left alone way too many times. Ideally, Price would make some of those saves, but the team needs to be better in front of him, and Claude Julien said as much after the game. Noah Juulsen will help that. So will David Schlemko and Shea Weber when they get healthy.
- Max Domi can really do it all. He may be having the best stretch of play by a Canadiens forward in the last few years. He’ll eventually slow down, but he’s red hot right now and leading this team in a way only a few other players have done in recent history.
- You can fix system breakdowns. You can bounce back from poor performances. What you can’t fake, and what is impressive about this Montreal team (even in losses) is their ability to fight back. They never seem to back down and never seem out of a game.
- Speaking of system breakdowns, Montreal’s power play needs to get better. I don’t even know what they can do to fix it at this point, but it’s clearly not working. They had several opportunities to put the game out of reach and take control of it, but were 0/5 on the night, including 1:41 of 5-on-3 time.