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Canadiens vs. Sabres Top Six Minutes: Just not good enough

Jan 4, 2024; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Buffalo Sabres forward Jeff Skinner (53) and teammate Buffalo Sabres forward Alex Tuch (89) prepares for a face off against the Montreal Canadiens during the first period at the Bell Centre. | Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

First period

  • A nice cut to the middle by Jesse Ylönen creates a chance for Brendan Gallagher. Gallagher will score another goal in his NHL career.
  • Mitchell Stephens sets up Michael Pezzett on a cross-crease pass, but Pezzetta isn’t the best player at capitalizing on those chances. Still good that the fourth line can generate them.
  • The first shot on Allen beats him, but clangs off the post,
  • Jayden Struble stops an attempted cycle by changing his man’s position from standing to sitting. The Habs now have a few defencemen who can do that along the boards.
  • That loud ping seems to have woken the Sabres up, as they’ve started to take control.
  • The third line has a rough start to its shift with a couple of point-blank chances on Allen, but ends it with three shots from the crease for Ylönen, who just can’t get it to go in the net.
  • There was a review, but no way to tell if the puck went over the line on any of those shots. They need a camera in a plexiglass-covered box under the goal line to see those.
  • Another loud ping as Allen misses another Sabres shot.
  • Montreal gets called for the first penalty of the game, and the way the Sabres have been hemming them in for the past few shifts, that was bound to happen.
  • Just as the penalty expires, the Habs head to a power play of their own as there too many Sabres on the ice.
  • After an early bobble, the power play spent about 1:40 in the offensive zone getting a number of good looks, from a variety of passing plays. I think the total number of shots on that man advantage was six, taking Montreal’s total from eight to 14.
  • Montreal also allows 14 shots in the first period, more than they surrendered in the first periods of their previous three games combined. The score remains, 0-0, however.

Second period

  • Nick Suzuki carries the puck into the corner to open up the second period, then simply skates away to let Juraj Slafkovský win the puck versus two Sabres defenders, setting up Cole Caufield when he does, though the pass is in Caufield’s feet.
  • Former Sabre Joel Armia takes a wrist shot from the top of the slot and beats Devon Levi. But Michael Pezzetta had made contact a few seconds before the puck went in, and the Sabres requested a review. The contact got the goal taken off the board.
  • David Savard tapped the stick of J.J. Peterka on a breakaway, and goes off for slashing. The power play lasts mere seconds before Casey Mittelstadt takes advantage of Mike Matheson’s missed coverage on the back door.
  • Peyton Krebs attempts to hit Mitchell Stephens to prevent him from getting to Zemgus Girgensons, and goes down in the contact. Stephens goes to the box for interference.
  • Another power-play goal, for Habs killer Jeff Skinner. Another backdoor pass that couldn’t be defended.
  • The Sabres go to the power play once again after Pezzetta dove at the feet of Mattias Samuelsson. Gallagher will serve the penalty as Pezzetta seemed to get cut on the play.
  • The special-teams goal-scorer this time is Joel Armia. He steals the puck and puts it in the net. This one will count.
  • He’s now scored twice with his wrist shot tonight. A weapon he needs to use more.
  • If this were the PWHL, Gallagher would be freed from the box. The Habs, however, have another minute to kill off.
  • Which they do.
  • Pezzetta returns to the bench with a bloody smear on his chin. Just another character mark.
  • The crowd hollers for a penalty and Anderson is hit in the head and then taken down without ever touching the puck. The refs have no choice but to call a penalty when he’s taken down in the neutral zone moments later.
  • Well I suppose the good news is that Montreal won’t be defending a lead to start the third period. They go to the intermission down 2-1.

Third period

  • The Sabres have decided to play the trap in this period, and the Canadiens are having some trouble getting through it.
  • Unless Slafkovsky is on the ice and just powering through.
  • A very nice saucer pass through two defenders by Ylönen lands on the stick of, but he can’t put it in.
  • Montreal is beginning to figure it out and get some zone time.
  • Before I could finish typing that sentence, and counter-attack from the Sabres leads to the 3-1 goal.
  • It came on Buffalo’s 30th shot of the game.
  • It’s 4-1 Buffalo. Jayden Struble got caught out of position and allowed Tage Thompson to come out from behind the net and score.
  • No game during the seven-game road trip was played this poorly.
  • Anderson gets the puck with an open net, but just drifts to the side and ends up sending it over the net. A split-second to set his feet would have had this a 4-2 game.
  • We have some coincidental double-minors or something going on here. Three players in the box, the play remains at five-on-five.
  • The Canadiens pull Allen with under six minutes to go, trying to replicate what the Stars did two days ago. Buffalo scores five seconds later.
  • Thompson scores again to make it 6-1, and the Sabres don’t even celebrate as to not embarrass their opponent more than that opponent has embarrassed itself.

EOTP 3 Stars

3) A bit baffling that one

2) These are the two sides to this PK coin

2) Hopefully it clears customs in time for the Rangers’ arrival

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