It was Montreal’s second straight loss to start the season after they lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday night. Buffalo’s power play went 3/6 in the win while Montreal’s power play went 0/4. That proved to be one difference, although there were many reasons for the game going the way it did.
Buffalo started off strong, getting the game’s first four shots of the game. Samuel Montembeault was solid for the Canadiens to keep the game tied. Montreal, for their part, struggled to get any kind of puck possession, especially in the Sabres zone.
The Canadiens took the game’s first penalty when Cédric Paquette was called for a high stick with 14:36 remaining in the opening period. Montreal had the first chance shorthanded. Jake Evans won a race to a loose puck and had a partial breakaway, but his shot was saved by Craig Anderson. The veteran goaltender made 30 saves in his Sabres debut.
The Sabres took the lead shortly after on the power play. Kyle Okposo took a shot from the right circle, and beat Montembeault short side just 6:40 into the game.
The goal seemed to spark the Canadiens. With the shots 7-1, Montreal turned it on. They had a flurry of four shots, and drew a power play of their own. Like Wednesday against Toronto, there wasn’t much generated, and they remained down by a goal.
Buffalo kept pushing. Shortly after an Okposo shot hit the post, the Sabres took a 2-0 lead when Zemgus Girgensons deflected a Colin Miller shot past Montembeault with less than three minutes remaining in the period. Before the period ended, Montreal took another penalty but managed to keep the deficit at two.
The Canadiens’ power play had a chance to get them back into the game, but once again, it failed to get on the board. A short five-on-three went for naught as they generated some chances, but were unable to beat Anderson. The best chances came off of the stick of Cole Caufield.
Montreal finally pulled within one goal when Joel Armia’s shot found its way through traffic right to Chris Wideman all alone at the side of the net. Wideman made no mistake with the open net and it was 2-1 9:33 into the second period.
That was as close as they got. Right after the goal, Montembeault had to come up big as the Sabres had a 2-on-0 rush but were unable to beat the Canadiens goaltender. Montembeault made 31 saves on 36 shots in his first start for Montreal. The one goal deficit was short lived.
After a too-many-men on the ice penalty and a Ben Chiarot hooking penalty, the Sabres had a five-on-three of their own. Unlike the Canadiens, they capitalized. Victor Olofsson fired a shot from the circle past Montembeault to make it 3-1 with 2:55 remaining in the period. Less than two minutes later, following two Jonathan Drouin shots were blocked, Anders Bjork pounded on a rebound to make it 4-1 entering the third period.
Any thoughts of a Canadiens comeback were settled early in the third period when Buffalo scored another power play goal. A rebound went right to Tage Thompson at the left circle, and Thompson fired a shot bar down past Montembeault.
The Canadiens will now return back to Montreal where they will play their home opener on Saturday against the New York Rangers.