Tomas Tatar – Phillip Danault – Brendan Gallagher
Artturi Lehkonen – Nick Suzuki – Joel Armia
Nick Cousins – Max Domi – Ilya Kovalchuk
Ryan Poehling – Nate Thompson – Dale Weise
Ben Chiarot – Shea Weber
Brett Kulak – Jeff Petry
Marco Scandella – Victor Mete
Carey Price – Charlie Lindgren
Cale Fleury, Jordan Weal, Jesperi Kotkaniemi
Paul Byron, Jonathan Drouin
Did the Canadiens think it was a 7:30 start? At the halfway point of the first period, it was all Sabres, who were outshooting Montreal 9-0 and were leading 1-0 on a goal by Jack Eichel. The Canadiens first shot on goal came 11 minutes into the game.
But when they finally woke up, the Canadiens dominated play. For roughly the next 30 minutes the Habs outshot Buffalo 22-5. That included two second period goals from the sticks of Ilya Kovalchuk and Brendan Gallagher.
An empty-netter by Tomas Tatar rounded out the scoring.
The Sabres were missing their number one goaltender, Linus Ullmark, who has tended the crease for 20 of the past 23 Buffalo games. Ullmark is out for at least three weeks with a lower body injury.
That left the starting duties in the hands of Carter Hutton, who hasn’t won a game for the Sabres since October 22nd. Since then, Hutton has gone 0-7-4 with an .867 save percentage.
While Hutton wasn’t to blame for the loss, he was no match for Carey Price who did not give up an even-strength goal to the Sabres tonight.
The win may have been gratifying for Claude Julien, but does very little to improve the Canadiens playoff chances. Julien continued to make curious coaching decisions that seemed to be rooted primarily in self-preservation.
In putting together his lineup, Julien preferred players like Dale Weise, Nick Cousins and Nate Thompson over Jesperi Kotkaniemi. And on defence, the head coach’s choice was Brett Kulak over Cale Fleury.
In game, Phillip Danault was taking draws for Nick Suzuki and then scampering to the bench rather than letting the 20-year-old benefit from the experience. Perhaps the coach is not concerning himself with the growth of the youngsters as he has a good idea that he won’t be around to participate in their successes.
As the calendar is set to flip to February, teams will begin to realize their fate. As the Habs’ outcome is already known, it is incumbent on Marc Bergevin to get a leg up on his fellow GMs, by beginning to move players now.
Next up for the Canadiens are two weekend matinee games at the Bell Centre.
Plus / Minus
▲ Carey Price, Nick Suzuki, Joel Armia, Artturi Lehkonen, Brendan Gallagher, Ilya Kovalchuk, Tomas Tatar
▼ Ben Chiarot, Marco Scandella, Victor Mete, Nate Thompson