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Sabres Homecoming Hindered by Habs

Buffalo falls short in their first home game in 12 days

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

Score: Sabres 2 | Canadians 3

Shots: BUF 45 | MTL 34

Buffalo Sabres Goals:

1) Skinner (Tuch, Quinn)

2) Cozens (Bryson, Pilut)

Montreal Canadians Goals:

1) Gallagher (Anderson)

2) Guhle (Savard, Caufield)

3) Anderson (Savard)

Plus 1: Dahlin Dominance

Sabres fans were used to watching a single player dictate the pace of play during nearly each of their shifts throughout their previous captain’s tenue. This time, it is their star defensemen tilting the ice every time he’s out there. Rasmus Dahlin’s start to the year has been remarkable. Even on nights like these when he doesn’t end up on the scoresheet, he made great on both ends of the rink and created some great scoring chances for Buffalo. Next game, watch closely to how other teams try to defend Dahlin. Instead of trying to pressure him into a mistake, they are essentially playing contain on him to limit his damage. This is the treatment star players receive as the assumption by defenders is that they will get walked if they play too aggressive. In all situations, Dahlin is ready for prime time.

Minus 1: Penalty Parade

As if there was a flash sale on 2-minute minors, Sabres forwards cashed in like thrifty shoppers. Undisciplined penalties by Thompson and Peterka in the first 5 minutes set Buffalo behind the 8-ball early. This set the tone for a closely called game in the first two periods as Montreal would take the next four minor penalties: two of them drawn by Jack Quinn. The only penalty called in the 3rd was a tripping minor against Owen Power. The adjusted powerplay showed early promise with improved puck movement and even a goal by Jeff Skinner at the beginning of the 2nd period. However, the Sabres finished 1/4 on the Powerplay with some missed opportunities earlier in the game that cost them as the night progressed

Minus 2: Out of Gas

Despite controlling play for large portions of the game, Buffalo fell victim to a combination of returning from a long roadtrip and a weakened defensive core. On Anderson’s game winning goal, Buffalo got hemmed in their own end and Montreal took advantage. Buffalo was not able to mount a successful counterattack in the final few minutes. Dahlin had a great one-timer chance from the half-wall, but they were unable to find the final equalizer. Dahlin led the team with over 27 minutes of ice time and the pair of Thompson and Tuch led the forwards with over 19 minutes. After a long road trip, you would hope to be able to spread out the ice time to keep the top guys prepared for a late game push. Unfortunately, this was not a luxury enjoyed by the coaching staff.

Final Thoughts

Overall, this was a pretty good night for Buffalo with a rough result. There were times in the game the Sabres looked poised to take control, but Montreal would not break. What the Canadians lack in talent, they make up for in timely scoring and potent counterattacks. Martin St. Louis is proving to be an effective coach for a young and currently overachieving team. However, this is a game that Buffalo needed to find a way to win. Even with their improved play, Montreal will likely sit in the Atlantic Division’s cellar. These are points Buffalo can’t afford to lose if they want to be in contention come March. However, it is encouraging to see stable goaltending from Comrie, the emergence of Dahlin, and hearing Skinner’s goal song “I Want to Dance with Somebody” for the first of, hopefully, many occasions. How this young team rebounds after a couple of tough losses will be a telling sign of how the rest of the season will progress.