For most who live in Montreal and surrounding areas attending a Montreal Canadiens game (no matter the quality of the team) is a thrill. Even for those who are not necessarily fans of hockey, the atmosphere in the Bell Centre is unparalleled. That is the case even for an early in the season regular season game. This is especially true when you are lucky enough to get tickets four rows up from the glass. Being that close you feel every check, are amazed by the skill of the players even more and feel the speed of the game. A totally different perspective.
I was lucky enough to have that kind of ticket for the tilt against the Buffalo Sabres. Behind the Habs’ net in the first and third periods, the seats gave us a great perspective. Now, if only the Habs’ performance had been up to that standard.
In all honesty, both teams who took the ice are not great sides. Both are predicted to end up in the bottom third of the league’s standings. Still, despite that, you hope for a competitive game. Unfortunately for Habs’ fans, you could tell that was not going to be the case very early in the contest. Before 3 minutes had been played the Montreal Canadiens were already in a 3-0 hole. This was Buffalo Sabres history, actually. They had never scored three goals so quickly to start a game in their 52 year history. Bad start for the Habs. Crowd was taken out of it after starting on a high due to the home side’s shootout victory Saturday evening against the Philadephia Flyers. Air out of everyone’s tires.
After the three goals by Rasmus Dahlin, JJ Peterka and Alex Tuck, who else but Cole Caufield (with another incredible shot – bar down!) gave the team and the crowd a lifeline by making it 3-1 at the 2:57 mark of the 1st. This was Caufield’s 12th of the season and made him, for now, the leading goal scorer on the Canadiens.
After a flurry of goals to start the game, the rest of the 1st was rather quiet. Montreal had opportunities to make the score closer as they were three straight powerplays. Despite the 6 minutes with the man advantage the power play again let them down. Some close chances especially by the first unit comprised of Caufield, Nick Suzuki, Kirby Dach, Mike Matheson, and Sean Monahan, but they did not result in the puck in the back of the net.
So after the 1st ended with a 3-1 lead for Buffalo, a team mired in an 8 game losing streak, everyone in the building and on both teams, I am sure, knew that the next goal was vital. All hopes were pretty much lost when Jeff Skinner scored his 6th of the season at the 11:21 mark of the 2nd period. Monahan got one back just over 2 minutes later on a nice individual effort which I am sure Sabres’ goalie Craig Anderson would like back as his rebound control on the first shot was awful. But even pulling within 2 goals did not give the Habs a lift on this evening. The Sabres sealed it with 3 more goals (a second by Skinner, Tage Thompson and Henri Jokiharju – his first of the season) in the 3rd period.
While this is a team game and it is hard to pin a loss on one player, Habs’ goalie Jake Allen did not have a good game as evidenced by his .816 save percentage. Even he realized it and demonstrated that by breaking his goalie stick on his posts after the 7th goal went in. His team in front of him did not have a great game but several of the goals were stoppable.
They won’t have a long time to dwell on this loss, which is a good thing, as they are right back at it tonight. Tonight’s game is a road one where they will face off against the Columbus Blue Jackets, a team that is coming off a win and is well rested as they have been off for a couple of days. Montreal has done alright on the second game of a back-to-back with a 1-1-0 record so far.