For the second game in a row a supposedly superior team was rankled by the Sabres to the point where one of their players delivered a cheapshot to a Buffalo player.
Unlike the last game where Winnipeg Jets Adam Lowry smoked noted pest Patrick Kaleta with a match penalty boarding call (for which Lowry was suspended one game,) Sabres captain Brian Gionta was laid out by a head shot from the Habs Alexander Emelin.
With the game tied 1-1 and less than two minutes left in the third period Emelin uncorked an elbow to the head of an unsuspecting Gionta which sent him to the ice. The Sabres captain would get up from the hit and go full-bore into the ensuing scrum to get at Emelin.
(thx to SomeHockeyVideos)
It was a stupid, dirty play that cost the Canadiens the game and should be reviewed by the league, plain and simple. Elbows to the head are something the league has been trying to eliminate and even though the referees didn't think it warranted more than a two minute penalty, Emelin should be suspended. But he probably won't even get a call. Kinda like when Habs rookie Jiri Sekac boarded the Sabres' Nikita Zadorov in the first meeting of the year between the two clubs.
The Eastern Conference leading Canadiens were a frustrated team last night. As much as they tried they couldn't shake the last place Sabres, nor could they get more than one goal past Jhonas Enroth who at game's end would extend his streak to over 259 minutes without allowing an even strength goal.
And even the goal he "allowed" last night was more of a gift from the referee than anything else. With the Habs on a powerplay, chaos ensued around Enroth who eventually pinned the puck underneath his right pad, long enough for the referee to take a sip from his Bleu, Blanc et Rouge coffee cup and still blow the play dead. Only when Enroth tried to move the puck from under his pad to his glove could you see it and PA Parenteau poked it home.
The whole series of events was lame, from Subban getting "tripped" on a spin-o-rama move that even Bambi would have called him out for, to the goal itself.
The Sabres are starting to play Ted Nolan-style, hard-to-play-against hockey. They're relentless in their skating and hitting and are generally ticking teams off to the point where their only recourse is to throw cheapshots Buffalo's way. Although it wasn't the most entertaining game last night, the Sabres managed to win with one line carrying the team while the others held their own. It's a formula that helped them extend a nice stretch where they've won four of their last five games and now find themselves ahead of Edmonton and Columbus in the league standings.
(thx to SomeHockeyVideos, again)
Tyler Ennis scored a highlight reel goal (see above) less than four minutes into the game and got the primary assist on Matt Moulson's game-winning, powerplay goal with Emelin in the box. He was a machine last night. The jitterbug would also get on the nerves of Le Habitants to the point where Montreal pugilist Brandon Prust would get riled and floor the much smaller Ennis with a hit.
For the second straight game, Sabres' forward Chris Stewart would take exception and this time he was able to get to the antagonist. It was a spirited brawl that left both him Prust exhausted.
The Moulson goal itself could be viewed as poetic justice for the Emelin cheapshot and the Montreal goal that really shouldn't have counted. The stanchion behind Habs goalie Carey Price kicked out a puck to the front of his net where a streaking Moulson buried it providing the game-winner.
Buffalo heads to Montreal tonight for the second leg of the home-and-home. One would think that there will be a raucous reception awaiting them at the Bell Center, as the upper crust of the hockey world will be hosting the grubby little street urchin.
As bad as the Sabres' looked earlier in the season, and with a roster that's devoid of upper-echelon talent, they're playing about as well as they can right now and should not be taken lightly. And for as good as the Canadiens are or seem to be, TSN's Dave Hodge doesn't think they're as dominant as a conference-leading team should be. He points out that although Montreal is 16-7-1, in their seven losses they've managed only four goals while giving up 30.
Should be a fun one tonight.