The Montreal Canadiens played their third back to back in a row this week and they blew leads and lost in both games. On Wednesday, the Boston Bruins came into the Bell Centre and beat the Habs 2-1. And then Thursday, the Habs traveled to western New York and lost 5-4 in a shootout to the Buffalo Sabres. Montreal led both games going into the third but couldn’t finish the game and get the win. Let’s recap both games and see why that happened.
Montreal and Boston have one of the biggest rivalries in the NHL and this year the Habs roster is good enough to actually compete with the 2011 Champs. The teams entered the game separated by only one point for first in the Northeast Division. Montreal came out firing, crashing Tuukka Rask in the Bruins net and almost scoring a couple of times. But neither team scored in the first.
Halfway through the second though, the Habs finally broke the Rask wall and took a 1-0 lead. And the goal came from PK Subban, playing in his third game after signing a new two-year deal. He fired a hard shot from the point that hit a Bruin stick and deflected over Rask’s glove. But it would be the only goal Montreal would score.
After giving up two quick goals to start the third, the Habs were never able to come back. Carry Price did his best to keep the game close, making 21 saves. But Montreal’s scoring drive from the first two periods disappeared and they lost the game.
“We’re not going to be outclassed by any team. We’ve got a good team,” said Habs captain Brian Gionta. “We’re confident no matter who we play against, we just didn’t play our best tonight.”
Montreal then traveled to Buffalo looking to get back in the win column and to keep pace with Boston in the standings. After beating the Sabres at the Bell Centre 6-1, it looked like Montreal would have their chance to add two points. But in the end they only got one.
Tomas Plekanec opened the scoring only four minutes in with a hard wrist shot that beat Ryan Miller over his blocker. But 15 seconds later, Buffalo had tied it. The same thing happened in the second. 20-year old Brendan Gallagher scored for the Habs and 35 seconds later Buffalo scored to make it 2-2. The Habs could not hold a lead.
Subban picked up his second in as many games late in the second, and Plekanec scored his second of the game early in the third to give the Habs a 4-2 lead. But even that wasn’t safe thanks to more bad penalties from Ryan White.
White’s penalties cost Montreal a game against the Ottawa Senators last week and they gave Buffalo a chance to come back this week. Near the halfway mark of the third, White began punching Sabres forward Steve Ott, and was given a double-minor for roughing. While in the box, the ever dangerous Thomas Vanek scored for Buffalo and they were within one. Unlike against Ottawa, the Sabres didn’t tie the game with White in the box. But his penalty brought them closer.
“Obviously it was just a selfish play. I thought he went kind of low on me and that’s what [Ott] does,” White said. “He’s a good player at that, he’s smart at what he does out there and, you know, I just kind of reacted the wrong way again obviously and cost my team another two points.”
But as with all leads Montreal had over this two game span, the 4-3 one was not safe either. With 1.9 seconds to go in the game, Vanek slid a puck past Peter Budaj to tie the game at four. Again Buffalo had tied it and now the teams had to go to overtime (and eventually a shootout) where Buffalo finished the steal of a win from the Habs.
“We had the lead and we were holding on to it until the end,” Plekanec said. “We have to somehow find a way to win those tied games in the end and look to make plays.”
The Habs next game is Saturday night when they return to the Bell Centre, where they will take on the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Quotes from NHL.com