Shuffled off to Buffalo to watch the HABS play the Sabres on Friday night and it was well worth the trip. A few of my buds in tow, after dropping our stuff off at our hotel and chugging a couple of beers we made our way to Anchor Bar restaurant to mange on the obligatory wings pre-game din din. Never a disappointment.
After an entertaining taxi ride to the arena by a driver claiming to be hiding in Buffalo from the mob, we got to our seats about 7 mins. into the game. From the shots on goal, we could tell the Sabres were hot out of the gate and Price was obviously the difference in the 1st period. There didn't seem to be much flow from both sides but definitely the Sabres had the better of the chances, finally cashing in with Mike Grier making a slick move to deke Price out of his pants on the backhand. However, on this night goals against only seemed to serve as motivation for the HABS as Jeff Halpern would tie the game with a wrist shot from the slot on a nice feed from Darche a little over a minute later. Not sure if Lalime had much of a chance on that one.
Second period was pretty much a repeat of the first, except this time the HABS seemed to find their legs and were generating more opportunities and tested Lalime, forcing him to make a few nice saves. Sabres though took the lead when Leopold wheeled in from the point and batted in a fluttering puck behind Price, but once again Montreal had an immediate response when the resurging Benoit Pouliot took the puck on the side of the net and moved out into the slot to slide it between Lalime's legs, tying the score under a minute later.
The Halpern line was definitely the strongest line of the night for the HABS, on a night where the team's top lines were somewhat flat. Gomez, off to a slow start this year, didn't drive towards the net on one opportunity which led to a turnover that resulted in the Sabres rushing up ice and scoring their second goal. So it was good timing for the Halpern line to get some timely goals for the team. Just what the doctor ordered, so says Dave Stubbs of the Montreal Gazette, who after the game tagged them as the PhD line: Pouliot, Halpern, and Darche. Good one.
Ryan Miller's absence became a factor later in the 2nd when Pouliot streaked down the left wing and drove a slapshot from the top of the circle beating Lalime on the short side -- a save he should have made. In the 3rd, the HABS definitely tightened things up and really provided a solid defensive effort in front of Price, who wasn't as busy as the previous periods, but still made a big stop on a partial breakaway midway through the period.
Somewhat sloppy effort, some timely goals by Pouliot and Halpern, and another strong outing by Carey Price gave the HABS an important 2 points and also may have driven another nail into the coffin of Sabres coach Lindy Ruff, whose Sabres have yet to win at home. Me and my bud agreed, Ruff is a great coach, but maybe the time has come to make some changes in Buffalo.
Unfortunately the next night back in Montreal was a bit of the same: sloppy defensive play led to some breakdowns to a streaking team that is quickly finding its identity with Mike Fisher as the leader instead of Daniel Alfredsson...and guess who would make one of his 8-10 appearances in a game out of 82 this year, but Alex Kovalev who probably is the most motivated against his old club than any other, scoring two goals (both were a bit lucky in my opinion but good for him).
My mother and brother were in attendance and witnessed a pane of glass break during the pregame warmup. Good thing they weren't sitting there at the time:
Honestly the Habs weren't ever in this game even though they had a couple of nice chances. Elliot was solid in nets, but it was Price who made this a game, giving the HABS a chance to squeeze out some points in this one. Gionta finally broke his goalless streak but it was too late and the team fell to the Sens 3-2. Habs looked slow and lethargic, mostly due to the game the night before, and once again, their power play was powerless. They really have to get this going or this is going to catch up to them in a a big way. They've now lost 3 of 4 and a couple of goals with the man advantage would have helped a lot in those games. Let's hope they figure out a way....ultimately with the team not playing their best, I'm sure Jacques Martin is content with with getting at least 2 out of 4 points, but knows they are walking a thin line unless the top scorers begin to find their touches once again.